Battling darkness over the last several holes, Cardinal Stritch came in late with a 5-over 289 to take the lead after the first round of the 2017 NAIA Men's Golf National Championships played at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
California Pacific Conference champion Embry-Riddle struggled over the par 71, 6,269-yard course, finishing 28th in the 29-team field. Garret Hogan and Kyle Peterson turned in the Eagles' best rounds, both carding 81s to finish the opening round tied for 109th in the field of 154 golfers.
Second-round action in four-round event gets underway Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. PDT.
Playing the same course where they won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament just weeks ago, Stritch have a four-shot lead on a tightly-grouped top seven at the 66th annual event.
Tyler Church led the Wolves with a 1-under 70. Teammate Antonio Maciel fired an even-par 71. Brian Murtagh carded a 73 and Joaquin Diaz shot a 75 for the Wolves.
Six other teams are within eight shots of the lead. Johnson & Wales (Fla.) is second with a 293. Jake Bauer led the Wildcats with a 70 after starting his round with a 2-under 33 on the front nine. Teammate Fraser Hall shot an even par 71.
Facing temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, Wayland Baptist and British Columbia shot matching 295s. Grand View, the only other team teeing off in the afternoon to crack the top seven, is fifth with a 296. William Woods and Arizona Christian are tied for sixth with 297s.
Defending champion and No. 1-ranked Oklahoma City University is one of three teams tied in 13th place after beginning its quest for an 11th national title with a 306.