SUNCADIA, Wash. – No. 11 Washington is off to a good start at the NCAA West Regional played at Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort. The Dawgs shot an opening round of even-par 288 and trail only No. 1 ranked USC who is at 4-under.
“It’s always good to get off to a strong start,” said head coach Mary Lou Mulflur. “We struggled a little bit down the stretch, but we are still in good position.”
Washington needs to finish in the top eight to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships later this month in Tulsa, Okla. The Dawgs got a bit of a break, playing in the morning mostly before rains came to make conditions more difficult. The Huskies used that to their advantage, getting off to a hot start and holding the lead for much of the round.
“The weather plays a role for sure,” said Mulflur. “We had good conditions, while the afternoon groups had to deal with some pretty good rain. Tomorrow we are in the afternoon so if the wind comes up we will be at the disadvantage.”
The Dawgs got to as many as 4-under, before some late bogeys brought the round back to even par. Still, the Dawgs are just four strokes off the lead and one shot ahead of third-place No. 6 Arizona State. No. 23 Texas A&M sits in fourth place at 2-over, while No. 23 Michigan State and No. 7 Oklahoma are tied for fifth at 3-over. Those six teams have separated from the rest of the field with seventh-place UC Davis and Iowa State all the way back at 12-over fighting to hold onto the NCAA qualifying spots.
Jennifer Yang and SooBin Kim led the Dawgs with matching rounds of 2-under 70. Yang had it to 4-under after birdying the fifth, her 14th hole of the day, but bogeys on seven and nine brought her back. Kim birdied three, four and six to get it to 3-under, before also bogeying the par-three seventh. The pair of Husky juniors are tied for fifth place, four strokes back of first-round leader Hyung Kim of USC.
Also playing well for the Dawgs were Charlotte Thomas and Kelli Bowers who finished at 2-over 74 and are tied for 24th. Bowers got off to a hot start, playing her first nine at 1-under, but a triple on the par-five fifth cost her some momentum. The Chelan, Wash., native also had the largest fan following as much of her family made the short trip west. Thomas had a steady round of two birdies and four bogeys.
“They were very resilient today,” said Mulflur. “I just thought we really hung in there and stayed patient.”
Ying Luo rounded out the Husky squad with a round of 5-over 77. She is tied for 63rd, but bounced back well after bogeying her first two holes.
The Dawgs will be back on the Tumble Creek course on Friday afternoon, teeing off the first tee beginning at 12:56 p.m. The Dawgs will play with Clemson and Wake Forest for the second-straight round.
“We certainly felt a home course advantage,” said Mulflur. “We have probably played here a dozen times this year, which is about 11 more than the rest of the teams. More than anything, we just feel comfortable. This is why you host.”