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Auburn golfers grab SEC lead

ST. SIMON’S ISLAND, Ga. – The No. 20 Auburn men’s golf team charged fast out of the gate in Southeastern Conference Golf Championship, establishing a 4-shot lead after the first round at the Sea Island Golf Club on Friday.

Niclas Carlsson is one shot out of the individual lead

Michael Hebert and Niclas Carlsson paced the Tigers with a school SEC Championship record low 4-under 66 and are tied for second, a shot behind South Carolina’s Caleb Sturgeon.

South Carolina was in second after the first round, followed by No. 13 Georgia at 281, No. 2 Alabama at 283 and No. 21 Texas A&M at 285.

“The guys obviously played well,” Auburn coach Nick Clinard said. “It was really windy today, and we let some shots get out of our hands near the end of the round. They guys played very well. We look forward to the next two days.

“I saw Niclas play quite a bit, and he had a lot control. Niclas and Michael have been working hard leading up to the tournament, and they are doing the right things.”

Hebert started with five-straight pars before carding his first of five birdies on No. 6 to turn at 1-under. The Orlando, Fla, native had three-straight birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to move to 4-under. Following a birdie on the par-3 17th, Hebert bogeyed No. 18 to finish at 4-under, his second lowest round of the year.

“We played well today,” Hebert said. “It was really windy and the closing holes were tough, but we played really well overall as a team today. Dominic (Bozzelli) finished well, and we expect him and the rest of us to keep that momentum for the rest of this weekend.”

After bogeying the par-4 No. 1, Carlson birdied No. 5 and turned at even-par. He birdied No. 10 before firing back-to-back birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 to move to 3-under. Carlsson closed out the round with a birdie on No. 16 for his lowest round of the season.

“It was a good day,” Carlsson said. “I started out a little slow, but I hit some good iron shots and made a few clutch putts on the back-nine.”

Sophomore Michael Johnson is tied for 12th at even-par. Johnson birdied Nos. 2 and 6 to make the turn at 2-under. Following a birdie on No. 14 to move to 3-under, Johnson bogeyed three of the final four holes.

Senior Dominic Bozzelli, who is tied for 30th at 3-over, was 5-over after 12 holes with a triple bogey on No. 7, but rebounded with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to finish at 3-over. Redshirt freshman Jake Mondy is tied for 51st at 6-over.

“Tomorrow is going to be interesting as there will be less wind, but some more rain,” Clinard continued. “We have to take the right line off the tee and if we do that and putt well, we will be in good shape come Sunday afternoon.”

Auburn has won the SEC Championship three times, most recently in 2002.

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