Winds make first round tricky at NCAAs
__BRYAN, TEXAS—__Hang on.
That was the swing key for those competing in the early wave of the first round of the NCAA Women's Championship. As winds steadily increased during the morning at The Traditions Club, reaching a consistent 15 to 20 miles per hour, most of the red numbers on the leader board to start play were blown off by mid-day.
WIth more than half players in the field having finished their opening 18 holes, only five posted sub-par rounds. Michigan State sophomore__ Caroline Powers__, playing as an individual, shot a two-under 70 to pace the field along with Wake Forest's__Michelle Shin__.
Powers and Shin had a one-stroke lead on Georgia junior__Marta Silva Zamora__, South Carolina's__Katie Burnett__ and Purdue's __Numa Gulyanamitta__. Silva Zamora stood at three under par through 17 holes, her efficient ball-striking allowing her to hit all but one fairway during her round. But her approach shot on the par-5 18th flew the green and produced an awkward lie in the bunker near the back lip. She left her fourth shot in the sand, hit her fifth to roughly 50 feet and two-putted for a double-bogey 7.
"I played really well and then 18 was a killer," Silva Zamora said. "You just want to break something [after that finish]."
Defending NCAA champion Purdue held the early team lead, shooting a four-over 292. Yet Boilermaker coach Devon Brouse wondered what might have been, considering his team had been five under at one point while playing on the front nine. Only Gulyanamitta broke par, shooting a 71.
"The wind was swirling at times," Brouse said. "There are certain holes out there you really have to manage well. I don't think we did that quite as well as we need to."
Brouse noted the par-4 10th, in which three of his players made bogeys, and the 14th hole, where his team shot four over, including a triple bogey from Maude-Aimee LeBlanc.
"Hopefully we can learn something from our mistakes today and play well tomorrow," Brouse said. "There's a lot of golf left."
Two strokes back of Purdue was Florida, which saw Mia Piccio and Andrea Watts shoot matching 72s. Host Texas A&M was three back, shooting a seven-under 295 with freshmen Katerina Ruzickova and Natalie Reeves leading the way with matching 73s.
"You always have to try to keep yourself in contention, just get yourself in position," said Texas A&M coach Trelle McCombs. "We'll get some good rest tonight and see what happens tomorrow."
A few dozen Aggie faithful followed the host school during the round, providing a spirited rooting section to help the team get jump-started.
"It looked like we got off to a little slow start, made a couple of bogeys and didn't have a whole lot of pep in our step," McCombs said. "Maybe some nerves."
But McCombs felt confident that some good practice sessions in the days leading up to the tournament would translate to solid scores when the championship began.
Silva Zamora's practice for the championship was also fruitful, the Spanish native working a few hours each day to hone her swing. Aside from getting in some work at the University of Georgia GC, she also played a practice round at Augusta National GC as part of an annual invitation that is extended to the Bulldog team.
"Yeah, that's pretty special," Silva Zamora said. "It's such a great experience."
Since arriving in Athens in the fall of 2008, Silva Zamora has consistently improved her game, her stroke average moving from a 73.61 as a freshman, to a 72.85 as a sophomore and a 71.48 entering this year's national championship. The progress, according to Georgia coach Kelley Hester, is by-product of not just a talented swing by a strong mind.
"She's a sports psychologists dream," Hester said. "She is able to stay so focused and not let things get in the way. It's not easy to be that way but it comes naturally to her. It's not like she has to work at it."