COLUMBUS, Ohio ?? It was a slow start for the Alabama women’s golf team at the 2006 NCAA Championship, as the team fired a 307 in the opening round of play. The Tide shot 19-over par and are in 20th place in the team standings after the first of four scheduled rounds in Columbus, Ohio.
Playing in just the second NCAA Championship in school history, Alabama advanced to this week’s Championship after a dramatic playoff victory over Virginia at the East regional on May 13. Twenty-four teams and six individuals are competing for the team and individual titles at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course.
“I was concerned going into today, to be frank,” Alabama head coach Mic Potter said. “It’s a new position for over half our team and we were nervous. But, we shot what we did without counting Sarah’s score and having Jenny being our fourth-highest score, so when they can come back to form we should be in good shape.”
Southern Cal leads the team scoring after day one with a 291 in the opening 18 holes. Pac 10 rival Arizona State follows the Trojans, with Florida and Arizona making up the remainder of the top five. Eileen Vargas of Pepperdine leads the individual race over the Lady Gators’ Tiffany Chudy after firing a 68 in the opening round.
The leader for the Tide on the first day of the event was senior Carina Sorensen. Sorensen, who carded a 74 at the second round of regional play, equaled that effort in the first round of Championship play with a two-over 74.
Sorensen nailed birdies on holes two, five and seven to go with 10 pars. She recorded five bogeys for the round, on holes one, 10, 11 and 13. Sorensen made the turn three shots over par, but finished strong, going one-under for her second nine holes. She is in a tie for 21st place in the individual standings after 18 holes of play.
Fellow senior Audrey Gale continued her strong post-season play for the Tide, finishing two strokes behind Sorensen with a four-over 76. Gale has been extremely efficient in four rounds of NCAA play, averaging 76 strokes per round after recording a 79.37 stroke average entering regional competition.
The Clayton, N.C., native holed three birdies in the round, on the first, third and 17th holes. She tallied eight pars, but stumbled with a double bogey on the second hole. Gale had five bogeys in the round, posting them on holes six, seven, nine, 13 and 15. Her performance was good enough for a tie for 46th place.
Another key to the Tide’s post-season success this season has been true freshman Laura Goodwin, who continued those efforts with a five-over par 77 in opening day action. Goodwin posted a 54-hole 228, a career best, to help Alabama earn the Championship bid at the NCAA East regionals.
Goodwin, a native of Birmingham, went two-over for her first nine holes and finished her round with a three-over back-nine performance. She carded two birdies, on the fourth and the 12th, along with 10 pars. A double bogey on the second and bogeys on holes five, seven, 11, 15 and 17 made up the remainder of her round. She finished the first day in a 70th-place tie on the individual leaderboard.
Jenny Suh, who has led the Tide for much of the season and whose heroics helped her team to the Championship round, struggled in her first 18 holes. Suh, who finished in a tie for 22nd place at the 2004 NCAA Championship as a true freshman at Furman, shot an eight-over 80 in opening round action.
It was just the second round of 80 for the standout junior this season, and the first round of NCAA competition in which Suh failed to break the 80 barrier. She went four over both halves of her round, with a double bogey on the 18th and bogeys on one, three, seven, nine, 10,12 and 17. Suh posted just one birdie on the day at the 13th green.
Sophomore Sarah Sturm also had a difficult opening day with an 11-over 83 performance. Sturm, who fired a 71 in the third round of NCAA regional play, got off to a rough start and never recovered. She made the turn at eight-over par and finished with a three-over on the final nine holes.
“Audrey, Laura and Carina all played really well,” Potter said. “I think that Jenny and Sarah may have put a little too much pressure on themselves, so I think they need to just relax and play the way they know they are capable of and they will be fine.”
The NCAA Championship is a 72-hole event spread out over four days. Second-round action will resume on Wednesday, May 24, at 8 a.m. CT. Teams will play 18 holes on Thursday, May 25, with the concluding round scheduled for Friday, May 26.