Posted On: May 20, 2017
Sugar Grove, Ill. – The North Carolina women's golf team slogged their way through difficult conditions on Friday at the NCAA Championships with a 26-over par 314 and find themselves in eighth place after day one.
The Tar Heels were led by Bryana Nguyen and Lexi Harkins, who shot matching 5-over par 77s. Those rounds were tied for seventh best of the morning session and left them tied for 19th overall. Brynn Walker, who was one of only four golfers with back-to-back birdies during their round today, Kelly Whaley, and Leslie Cloots all shot 8-over 80s and are tied for 56th.
“It was brutal out there, with the wind, the rain, the cold. There was really a test out there today, it was pretty much survival,” said head coach Jan Mann. “That was one of the things that we told the team, 'Hang in there, it's really just a matter of surviving the day.' They did a pretty good job of it.”
In this tournament, context is the key according to Mann, “You look at the score and you say, 'Oh my gosh that's a terrible score.' But, under the conditions we knew that it was in fact not a bad score. It all depended on how the conditions remained throughout the day. Obviously some very good teams were playing in the afternoon, I was a bit surprised that their scores were as high as they were. But, the conditions remained tough. I wasn't there for the last few rounds, but I don't know how they could have gotten any tougher than what we played.”
Northwestern leads the team field at 13-over par. The rest of the top teams include Kent State at 15-over par, and a tie between Ohio State, Arizona State, Stanford, and Baylor at 23-over par.
August Kim of Purdue and Elodie Van Dievoet of Michigan lead the individual competition following rounds of even-par 72.
This is the second best start by position at the NCAA Championships for North Carolina under Mann, the team was fourth following the first round at the 2012 NCAA Championships. But, as Mann says, “There's still a tremendous amount of golf to be played.”
“This is a very tough golf course,” has been the takeaway from the first few days in Sugar Grove according to Mann. “Without any wind, without any weather, the rain, the cold, it's still going to be a very difficult golf course. The rough is very high, the greens are tough, you have to hit tee shots in the right places. This it's a true challenge. There are a few quirky holes you have to maneuver, but it's a big challenge.”
Even in the challenge, the team isn't shying away from the experience. “That was fun,” were the first words out of Bryana Nguyen's mouth even though it was her first time with any heat in seven hours. “We are trying to have fun, being excited that we're here. We expected to be here, but, this is the culmination of a year's worth of hard work. So I want them to have a great time, even though the conditions were tough, it's still about having fun,” said Mann.
The 314 strokes are the most Carolina has taken in the first round of the Championships since the 1994 NCAA Championship in Eugene, Oregon. It's the most the Tar Heels have taken in any round since the second round of the 2007 NCAA Championship in Dayton Beach, Florida where Carolina shot 321.
In the NCAA Championships, there is a cut to 15 teams following the third round, and the top eight teams following the fourth round qualify for the match-play portion of the tournament to determine the national champion. The individual champion will be the leader of the competition following the fourth round of stroke play.
Carolina's second round will begin tomorrow at 1:36 p.m. EDT and they will play alongside Texas Tech and Pepperdine for the second straight day. Tar Heel fans interested in attending can purchase tickets through Rich Harvest Farms. Otherwise, stay tuned to Golfstat for live scoring and to @uncwomensgolf on Twitter for in-round coverage.