With Jennifer Kupcho, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo., leading the way, Wake Forest grabbed the lead at the end of the opening round of the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational Friday at Finley Golf Club in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Kupcho, who finished in a tie for sixth in the NCAA Championship as a freshman last spring, fired a 5-under-par 67 over the 6,379-yard, par-72 Finley layout to take a one-shot lead in the individual chase and lead the Demon Deacons to the top of the team leaderboard, also by a shot.
Brynn Walker, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor in her freshman year at North Carolina, was the co-medalist among the host Tar Heels with a 1-over 73 that left her in a tie for 24th. Teammate Lexi Harkins, a junior from Crystal Lake, Ill., also shot a 73 for the Tar Heels.
But North Carolina invited some heavyweights to its party and took some lumps. North Carolina’s Blue team carded a 9-over 297 and is tied for 12th. North Carolina also entered a White team, which is alone in 15th place at 16-over 304.
North Carolina is 15 shots behind its ACC rival Wake Forest, which fired a 6-under 282 to claim a one-shot lead over Ohio State, which posted a solid 5-under 283. A couple of perennial SEC powers, Alabama and Arkansas, are third and fourth with respective totals of 3-under 285 and 2-under 286.
Another of North Carolina’s ACC rivals, North Carolina State, is fifth at even-par 288. Another ACC power, Duke, and South Carolina are tied for sixth at 4-over 292. Duke, however, is playing without junior Leona Maguire, the No. 1-ranked player in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking who is preparing to tee it up in Stage II of LPGA qualifying next week at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla.
Wake Forest has another player in the top 10 with Antonia Eberhard, a sophomore from Germany, among a group of five players tied for seventh at 2-under 70.
Also for the Demon Deacons, Sierra Sims, a senior from Austin, Texas, is tied for 17th at even-par 72, Sierra Brooks, a freshman from Sorrento, Fla. and the runnerup at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur, is in that group tied for 24th at 2-over 73, and junior Erica Herr, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Council Rock North, is tied for 47th with a 3-over 75.
Competing as individual, Mathilda Cappeliez, a freshman from France who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club this summer, is tied for 35th with a 2-over 74. As I’ve mentioned before, the addition of Brooks and Cappeliez to this lineup makes Wake a team to be reckoned with in the 2016-17 season.
Alabama’s Lauren Stephenson, a sophomore from Lexington, S.C., and Ohio State’s Niki Schroeder a sophomore from Avon Lake, Ohio, are tied for second at 4-under 68.
Three players – North Carolina State’s India Clyburn, a sophomore from England, South Carolina’s Ainhoa Olarra, a junior from Spain, and Louisville’s Jacqueline Twitty, a sophomore from Chapin, S.C. – are tied for fourth, each carding a 3-under 69.
Joining Wake Forest’s Eberhard in the group tied for seventh at 2-under 70 are: Alabama’s Cheyenne Knight, a sophomore from Aledo, Texas, Duke’s Garbani Singh, a junior from India, Ohio State’s Jessica Porvasnik, a senior from Hinckley, Ohio and Arkansas’ Alana Uriell, a junior from Carlsbad, Calif. Porvasnik reached the round of 16 at Rolling Green this summer while Knight was ousted in the second round.
North Carolina’s Kelly Whaley, a sophomore from Farmington, Conn. who is coming off a victory in the Cougar Classic that led the Tar Heels to the team title, is tied for 47th with a 75. Also for the North Carolina Blue team, Leslie Coots, a senior from Belgium, and Bryana Nguyen, a junior from Columbia, Md. are in the group tied for 57th at 4-over 76.
North Carolina’s White team was led by Killian Casson, a sophomore from Greenville, N.C. who matched the 73s posted by Blue team co-medalists Walker and Harkins.