ANN ARBOR, Mich.-- TCU experienced a hot start to the 2012 NCAA Central Regional Championship Thursday, building an early eight-stroke lead on the rest of the field at the University of Michigan Golf Club. Freshman Julien Brun finished Round 1 with a share of the individual lead.
The top-5 teams from each of this weekend's six NCAA Regional competitions will advance to the NCAA Championship, which will be held May 28-June 3 at the Riviera Golf Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. In addition to the qualifying teams, the top individual finisher from each site not on an advancing squad will also earn a trip to the national championship.
TCU posted one of its top rounds of the season Thursday to open up its stay in Michigan, as each of the four Horned Frogs counting toward the team's score played par golf or better. The squad finished with a 6-under-par 278 total to build a sizable lead at the top of the leaderboard over second-place Kent State (+2). The Frogs are 11 strokes in front of USC for the all-important fifth-place position.
TCU is looking to advance to the NCAA Championship for the third time in the last four years. Last season's squad fell just one stroke short of forcing a playoff at the NCAA West Regional for a chance to make it back to the event for a third consecutive season. The Frogs entered this year's tournament as the No. 8 seed, as six of the nation's top-30 teams according to Golfweek are competing in Ann Arbor.
Leading the Frogs once again Thursday was Brun, who continues to impress during his true freshman season. The Antibes, France, native carded a bogey-free round of 67 to finish in a three-way tie for the individual lead at -4 alongside Baylor's Joakim Mikkelsen and USC's Anthony Paolucci.
Brun's Day 1 performance marked his eighth consecutive round below par, continuing a career-long streak. His last competition round above par was a 1-over 73 at the Barona Collegiate Cup on March 22. Thursday's effort lowered his season stroke average to 70.41, well ahead of the TCU season record of 71.08 set by current PGA TOUR pro J.J. Henry in 1998, when he was named Golfweek National Player of the Year.
Joining Brun near the top of the individual leaderboard were three other Frogs among the top-15 golfers. Junior Daniel Jennevret delivered his typical steady performance, shooting a 1-under 71 featuring four birdies and three bogeys. He sits in a seven-way tie for eighth place alongside freshman teammate Thomas Mantovanini, who surprised with the second-best round of his TCU career, also a 1-under 70. Mantovanini played an extremely eventful round, offsetting four bogeys and one double-bogey with seven birdies.
Senior Johan de Beer finished Round 1 in a tie for 15th place after carding an even-par 72. The South Africa native, in his first round since winning top-medalist honors at the Mountain West Championship, climbed to -3 midway through Thursday's round before bogeying three of the final four holes.
Also in the field for TCU is sophomore Ian Phillips, who currently occupies 48th place after posting a 5-over 76 in Round 1.
Competition from Ann Arbor continues Friday with the second of the NCAA Central Regional's three rounds. First groups are scheduled to tee off at 8:20 a.m. EDT.