ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The Alabama men's golf team opened defense of its league title by racing to a 5-shot lead after the first round of the Southeastern Conference Championship on Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course on Friday.
The Crimson Tide, which won a year ago by five strokes, posted an 11-under-par 269 to lead LSU (6-under 274). Auburn and South Carolina opened at 5-under 275 to stand tie for third, followed by Vanderbilt in fifth at 4-under 276. Arkansas was the only other school below par at 1-under 279.
"I am really proud of the way our guys played today," Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. "We had a great practice round (Thursday) and that carried over. I thought all of our guys did great. I am pleased to have the lead, but we just have to continue to play well (Saturday)."
Alabama was paced by one of the tri-leaders in sophomore Robby Shelton. He was joined by South Carolina's Matthew NeSmith and Arkansas' Kolton Crawford at 5-under 65. The Gamecocks also got a 4-under 66 from Will Starke, who stands fourth, followed by six players tied for fifth at 3-under 67.
Alabama counted Shelton's 5-under 65, a 3-under 67 from Jonathan Hardee, an 2-under 68 from Dru Love and a 1-under 69 from Robby Prater. Alabama has those four players in the top 15 after the first day of competition.
NeSmith posted a bogey-free round that featured an eagle on the par-5 15th and three birdies.
"I played really well today and didn't make any dumb mistakes," NeSmith said. "I just tried to hit fairways and greens and make a few putts. ... (The eagle) was actually kind of lucky. I didn't quite hit the shot I was trying to, but it worked out really well."
Shelton's loop was boosted by five birdies over a seven-hole span in the middle of his day. Crawford also registered an eagle (on the par-5 seventh) and three birdies.
The second round of the SEC Championship will begin Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET. Live scoring can be found at SECSports.com and GolfStat.com