BRYAN, TEXAS—It didn't take long Wednesday to come to a simple conclusion: The NCAA Women's Championship will not be a repeat of limbo contest that was last September's NCAA Fall Preview.
Indeed, red numbers were scare during the opening round at The Traditions Club, with windy conditions making the 6,260-yard, par-72 layout a challenge. Of the 126 players in the field, only nine broke par over the first 18 holes, Virginia's Brittany Altomare shooting a three-under 69 to take the lead. (By contrast, 17 sub-par rounds were posted during the first round of the Preview.)
It tells you something about the Cavalier sophomore's round, in which she stood a five under after her first nine holes, when the Shrewsbury, Mass., native talked about a 25-foot par saving putt on the third hole when asked about the highlights. Starting off the 10th tee, Altomare birdied five of her first seven holes. "I was in such a groove, I don't know how to explain it," Altomare said. "I just saw a shot and I was able to hit it."
Bogeys on the first, fourth and fifth holes might have quieted her momentum, but didn't shake her confidence. "It's a grind out there, and you know that's going to be the case coming in so you just have stay in the moment and keep from getting ahead of yourself," Altomare said. "It's a long week."
Altomare's 69 along with a 70 from senior Calle Nielson gave Virginia a two-over 290 total, one shot behind first-round leader UCLA. The Bruins' one-over 289 performance included a 70 from Glory Yang and a 71 from Tiffany Lua.
Ranked No. 2 in the latest Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll, UCLA spent the days after winning the Central Regional trying to figure out a way to maintain stay positive and keep the good vibes going. As part of the routine the women's team played a "friendly" competition with the men's squad at TPC Valencia, a match-up that offered coach Carrie Forsyth's team a fresh perspective.
"It was beneficial because [the men] are very fearless," Forsyth said. "And women tend to play sometimes with a little more fear. So it was really good for our girls to see that. We tend to play with a bit of a cautious side to our game, very safe players. And the men, they just grip it and rip it. So I think it got them revved up a little bit."
That and the fact that the women beat the men in the overall match.
Behind UCLA and Virginia sits a pair of schools in third place at four-over 292, Purdue (the low team from the morning wave) and LSU. Two other morning wave schools, Florida (six-over 294) and host Texas A&M (seven-over 295) rounded out the top six teams.
Conspicuous by their absence on the leader board were a pair of favorites entering the championship: top-ranked USC and No. 3 Alabama. The Trojans, who had finished the first round in first place five of the past seven years at nationals, struggled to find their collective games, posting a 14-over 302 to wind up T-12. The Crimson Tide, with an even-par score from Camilla Lennarth, could do only one better, shooting a 13-over 301 to finish 11th after 18 holes.
Chasing Altomare in the individual race is Michigan State sophomoreCaroline Powers, Wake Forest sophomoreMichelle Shin and UCLA's Yang, each posting 70s. Five other players—South Carolina's Katie Burnett, Purdue'sNuma Gulyanamitta, UCLA's Lua, Virginia's Nielson and Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora—shot one-under 71s to sit tied for fifth place.