It was a record-setting day at the University of New Mexico Championship Course on Monday during the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Golf Regional.
It just wasn’t a Lobo turning the ballyhooed course into her own private plaything.
Rather, it was Oregon’s Briana Chacon, who set an NCAA postseason course record with a sparkling, 7-under 65, giving her a 3-stroke advantage on four other players heading into Tuesday’s second of three rounds.
“We gave this one, Briana, a big team hug for an incredible start; 7-under, jeez, oh, man,” said Ducks coach Derek Radley. “She’s going to rub off on the rest of us for moving forward.”
Not that second-ranked Oregon needed much push for success. The Ducks finished the round in first with a 4-under 284, three strokes ahead of No. 13 Texas. The top four teams and the two best individuals not on one of the qualifying teams advance to the NCAA Championships May 20-25 at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
New Mexico did not qualify as a team but has two players competing as individuals. Napat Lertsadwattana sat in a tie for 17th after a 1-over 73 and Lauren Lehigh was tied for 21st with a 2-over 74.
“It was a little windy, but it was a gorgeous day,” Lehigh said. “The course conditions were great. It’s just a matter of handling the wind. I think I hit a lot of good shots out there, I just wasn’t able to make as many putts as I would have hoped. So I didn’t score as well I wanted, but I have a lot of good things to take into (today).”
Lobos coach Jill Trujillo is confident both players still have a shot at advancing if they’re able to make a few tweaks to their game for the final two rounds.
“They were both really spot on with their distance off the tee,” she said. “I think both of them had a little bit of nerves the first three or four holes, and I don’t think they will have that (Tuesday). But it’s the wedge shots. Their bogeys came from, not necessarily errant wedge shots, but poor wedge shots. That probably cost each of them three shots.”
That factored into the post-round discussion with both players, Trujillo said.
“Both of them know they can shoot well under par,” she said. “But being in the moment and getting those wedge shots close, that’s the key …”
Lehigh finished with just one birdie on her round, coming on the 10th hole.
“I hit a three-wood on (10) for my second shot from about 265-270 yards to the back fringe and two-putted for birdie,” she said. “That was my only birdie, which is really sad, but it was a really solid shot. Then I ate a sandwich while I was walking up there, then I was just focused on starting my putt on its line.”
New Mexico State, which won the WAC Tournament to earn its berth, was in a 10th-place tie in the 12-team field with Sam Houston at 14-over 302. The Aggies’ top two finishers, Amelia McKee and Panissara Tungprapunvong, equaled Lehigh at 74.
“I thought we hung in there pretty well,” said NMSU coach Danny Bowen. “We got off to a great start, but we let a couple go right before the finish of the front nine. But then once the wind came up on the second part of the round, we hung in there very well and did our best to make as many pars as we could.”
Chacon had almost no trouble with the wind or the course, throwing out six birdies – including one stretch of three in a row – as well as an eagle on the 373-yard, par 4 No. 12, holing out from 138 yards with a pitching wedge.
“I saw it go in when I hit it,” she said. “I hit the ball about a foot right of the hole and it just, like, kicked left right into the hole.”
Team Scores: 1. Oregon 284 (-4). 2. Texas, 287 (-1). 3. Florida, 288 (E). T4. Georgia, TECU, 292 (+4). 6. Arizona, 293 (+5). 7. Louisville, 295 (+7). 8. North Texas, 296 (+8). 9. Oklahoma, 299 (+11). 10. New Mexico State, Sam Houston, 302 (+14).
Individual Leaders: 1. Briana Chacon, Oregon 65 (-7). T2. Bentley Cotton, Texas; Sabrina Iqbal, TCU; Jenny Bae, Georgia; Marina Escobar Domingo, Florida; 68 (-4). 6. Annabell Fuller, Florida 69 (-3). 7. Patricie Mackova,* Maryland, 70 (-2). T8. Maya Benita, Arizona; Hsin-Yu Lu, Oregon; Carolina Melgrati, Arizona; Hannah Screen, Oklahoma; Sara Kjellker, San Diego State; 71 ( -1). T13. Brigitte Thibault Texas; Caitlyn Macnab, TCU; Lauren Thibodeau, Louisville; Audrey Tan, North Texas; 72 (E). T17. Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen, Oregon; Sara Kouskova, Texas; Emilie Ricaud, North Texas; Napat Lertsadwattana, * New Mexico; 73 (+1). T21. Candice Mahe, Georgia; Sophie Guo, Texas; Clara Manzalini, Florida; Lilas Pinthier, Arizona; Jo Hua Hung, Georgia; Viera Permata Rosada, Sam Houston; Panissara Tungprapunvong, New Mexico State; Carmen Griffiths, Louisville; Ellie Roth, North Texas; Kendall Griffin, Louisville; Amelia McKee, New Mexico State; Jennifer Herbst, Sam Houston; Lauren Lehigh,* New Mexico, 74 (+2).