The Nittany Lions’ five players combined for 24 birdies en route to shooting an 11-under-par 277 total Friday, good for a three-stroke lead over Tennessee. Teams play five golfers and count the best four scores.
The 54-hole tournament runs through Sunday.
UNC-Wilmington was in third place in the 15-team field at seven under par, while Louisville was in fourth at six under.
JD Hughes led the way for Penn State with a six-under-par 66. Defending individual champion Charles Huntsinger contributed a 69. Cole Miller was also going low for the Nittany Lions, sitting at five under par with two holes to go. A triple-bogey at the par-four 17th dropped him to two under.
Hughes, who played a flawless back nine with four birdies and no bogeys, held the individual lead by one shot over UNC-Wilmington’s Patrick Cover, Coastal Carolina’s Luis Ruiz and Tennessee’s Sean Wilcox. Cover and Wilcox both eagled the par-five 14th hole during their rounds of 67.
Host school East Tennessee State was back in 12th place after compiling a total of nine-over-par 297.
Two freshmen, Jack Rhea and Shiso Go, led the Bucs. Rhea shot a two-under-par 70 with four birdies and two bogeys to move into a tie for 10th place. He played the back nine of his home course in two under.
Go shot 73, a round that was salvaged after playing the back nine in three under.
Also for ETSU, junior Guentae Kim shot 75, sophomore Kevin Burns shot 79 and freshman Austin Carter shot 80.
Two ETSU players were competing as individuals, and Trevor Hulbert posted a 72 and Cayman Ratliff shot 80.
The second round is set to begin Saturday at 8:30 a.m.