BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Alex Stinson fired the best round of his collegiate career Sunday to help the Ball State men's golf team to the second-best score out of 15 teams on day one at the Golfweek Conference Challenge.
The Cardinals posted a team score of 1-over par 289 and trail only Missouri's 2-under total of 286 after the tournament's opening day.
Host school Iowa (+4), Tulsa (+5) and Wake Forest (+6) round out the top five after 18 holes at the 7,360-yard, par-72 Spirit Hollow Golf Course. All three of those teams were NCAA Regional participants last spring, while Iowa and Wake Forest are both currently receiving votes in the coaches poll.
Stinson's round of 3-under par 69 has him in a tie for third place individually. The senior from Anderson, Ind., is one of three Cardinals in the top 12 on the leaderboard.
Junior Tyler Merkel is tied for ninth following an even-par 72, while senior Joe Gasser is tied for 12th after a 1-over 73. Gasser led the Cardinals in their first tournament of the fall last week with a ninth-place finish.
Senior Brodie Williams and freshman James Blackwell rounded out the Ball State lineup Sunday with each carding and opening-round 75. They are tied for 28th place in the 75-player field heading into day two.
The second round of the three-day, 54-hole tournament gets underway Monday morning with the pairings featuring Ball State players scheduled to tee off at 10:40 a.m. CT (11:40 ET). The final 18 holes will be played Tuesday. Live scoring for the entire tournament is available at golfstat.com.
Heading into Monday's round, Stinson is just one stroke off the individual lead shared by Missouri's Jace Long and Iowa's Steven Ihm at 4-under par.
Stinson's first-round 69 was highlighted by four straight birdies on the front nine, which was his second nine of the day. The last of those birdies came at the par-4 sixth hole to get him to 4-under par before he dropped a stroke on his final hole of the day.
The Golfweek Conference Challenge is a unique tournament that features 15 teams from 15 different conferences. In addition to Ball State (MAC), the field includes Campbell (Big South), Central Arkansas (Southland), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), Iowa (Big Ten), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley), Kansas (Big 12), Long Beach State (Big West), Missouri (SEC), San Francisco (West Coast), San Jose State (WAC), Tulsa (Conference USA), Wake Forest (ACC) and Xavier (Atlantic 10).