Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
JOHNSON — It was only fitting that homegrown talent would vault the University of Arkansas men’s golf team to an early lead on a windy opening day of the second annual Blessings Collegiate Invitational.
It was a strong showing on the back nine that saw Luke Long, who starred at Fayetteville High School fire a 5-under 67 to sit atop the first-round leaderboard, two shots ahead of a group of six who are all tied for second.
Long birdied three of his final five holes, helping the Razorbacks maintain a seven-stroke lead over second-place Ole Miss. The performance was extra special to happen in his hometown, Long said.
“It was awesome,” he said. “A lot of my friends and family came out to support me. I checked my phone after the round and my inbox was just flooding with messages. We also got a lot of good support from the club members who came out here to watch and stuck it out for all 18.”
The graduate senior said it was a boost to have a strong local showing while sporting the Arkansas team colors. Long played at three different schools prior to this season, his first as a Razorback.
“It means a lot,” Long said. “I grew up always wearing the Razorback logo as a fan, but it’s nice now being able to represent the university instead of just being a fan.”
The nationally eighth-ranked Razorbacks finished as a team with a 10-under 278. Long, Mateo Fernandez De Oliveira and Segundo Pinto all posted scores in the red, while Julian Perico shot an even-par to round out the team’s five-count-as-four scoring.
“I thought they did a really good job today,” Arkansas Coach Brad McMakin said. “This golf course is very difficult and had about a 15-mph wind. And for us to go around where everyone shoots par or better is pretty impressive. I was really pleased.”
The tournament is unique in that both men’s and women’s teams compete at the same time on the same course.
“It’s a momentum thing,” McMakin said of the dynamic with this format. “When it goes good, it can go really good, and obviously it can work against you in that way too. Fortunately, today we all had it going and played well and you could feel the momentum going our way with the guys feeding off one another.”
Last year’s event was an SEC-only format with covid-19 shuttering a number of golf programs across the country. This year’s event saw colleges from across the country enter the field from coast to coast.
On the women’s side, UCLA led the way shooting a 1-over 289. Arkansas followed behind with a 5-over 293.
Arkansas’ Brooke Matthews, the No. 1 rated women’s college golfer by Golfweek/Sagarin and last year’s event champion, paced the Razorbacks with a 2-under 70. She trails Alessia Nobilio of UCLA for first in the individual standings by two strokes heading into today’s action.
Razorbacks Cory Lopez shot an even-par 72 while Miriam Ayora and Kajel Mistry shot 3-over 75 and 4-over 76, respectively.
Action will continue from the Blessings Golf Club today, with complimentary admission courtesy of Tyson Foods. The UA women will tee off at 10 a.m. and the men tee-off at 11:30 a.m.
The tournament is broadcast live on the Golf Channel and is available via the NBC Sports app. Live stats can be accessed at golfstat.com.