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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Alabama charges to the front at Athens Regional

   The reality of reaching a season-long goal, a trip to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. for the NCAA Championship, is just 18 holes away at the four regional sites around the country. Now comes the hard part, closing the deal.
   At the Athens Regional at the University of Georgia Golf Course Tuesday, Alabama, No. 3 in the latest Golfstat rankings, cruised to the top of the leaderboard with a solid 4-under-par 284 that gave the Crimson Tide a five-shot lead over No. 19 Baylor.
   Alabama is the only team under par for two tours of the 6,344-yard, par-72 UGA layout as the second-round 284, combined with an opening-round 289, left the Crimson Tide at 3-under 573. Baylor fired a 6-under 282 to move into second place at 2-over 578.
   Big Ten champion Michigan State, ranked 53rd, continued to outperform its No.-14 seed and its ranking as the Spartans slipped back with a 297 after opening with a 4-under 284 and are alone in third place at 5-over 581. They are still very much in control of their fate.
   No. 39 Clemson matched Baylor for the low round of the day with a 6-under 282 to surge into fourth place at 10-over 586. No. 11 Northwestern and No. 31 Tennessee are holding down the last two spots in the top six as the teams are tied for fifth at 12-over 588. The Wildcats had a solid 7-over 295 while Tennessee posted a 3-over 291.
   The top six teams and the top three individuals from a non-advancing team will be heading to Rich Harvest Farms for the NCAA Championship, which tees off May 19.
   Lurking in seventh place at Athens, four shots behind Northwestern and Tennessee, is No. 8 Georgia. It seemed almost unthinkable that the powerful Bulldogs would not advance on their home course, but they have some work to do in Wednesday’s final round.
   No. 35 North Carolina improved by five shots from an opening-round 302 with a 297 and is in 10th place at 599. Ill-fated Wake Forest, ranked 22nd, is 15th at 610 after sophomore Antonia Eberhard, a sophomore from Germany, couldn’t make it to the first tee with an injury, likely the same nagging chest muscle injury that has been plaguing her all spring.
   It appears likely that Jennifer Kupcho, a sophomore from Westminster, Colo., will be carrying the Wake Forest banner alone to Rich Harvest Farms. After opening with a 4-under 68, Kupcho added a 2-under 70 and holds the individual lead by a shot at 6-under 138.
   Alabama was led by Lauren Stephenson, a sophomore from Lexington, S.C. who is alone in second place in the individual standings, a shot behind Kupcho at 5-under 139. Stephenson added a 2-under 70 to an opening-round 69.
    Alabama added two other sub-par rounds as Cheyenne Knight, a sophomore from Aledo, Texas, and Kristen Gillman, a freshman from Austin, Texas, carded respective rounds of 1-under 71 and 2-under 70. It was Knight’s second straight 71 and she is tied for sixth in the individual chase at 2-under 142 while Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, is tied for ninth at 1-under 143.
   Mia Landegren, a senior from Bridgewater, Conn., had the final counter for Alabama with a 1-over 73 and she is tied for 34th at 5-over 149. Lakareber Abe, a junior from Angleton, Texas, bounced back from an opening-round 80 with a 2-over 74 and is tied for 64th at 154.
   Baylor was led by Amy Lee, a junior from Orange County, Calif. who fired a 3-under 69 to move into a tie for third at 3-under 141, two shots behind Alabama’s Stephenson.
   Lee is joined at that figure by Clemson’s Alice Hewson, a sophomore from the United Kingdom who matched par with a 72 after opening with a 69, and the College of Charleston’s Laura Fuenfstueck, a senior from Germany who also had a 3-under 69. Fuenfstueck is competing as an individual.
   North Carolina had a solid day, but the Tar Heels might need something really special Wednesday to advance out of Athens. Leading the way was Leslie Cloots, a senior from Belgium who added a 73 to her opening-round 71 and is tied for 11th at even-par 144.
   Bryana Nguyen, a junior from Columbia, Md., is tied for 34th at 149 after a 75, Kelly Whaley, a sophomore from Farmington, Conn., is tied for 46th at 152 after a 74 and Lexi Harkins, a junior from Crystal Lake, Ill., is tied for 74th at 155 after a 76.
   Freshman Brynn Walker, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor, bounced back from an opening-round 81 with a 3-over 75 and is tied for 77th at 156.
   Wake Forest got a typically solid even-par 72 from Sierra Sims, a senior from Austin, Texas. That leaves her tied for 34th at 5-over 149. Junior Erica Herr, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion from Council Rock North, rebounded from an opening-round 82 with a 77 and is tied for 84th at 159. Anna Wears, a sophomore from Durham, N.C., is 94th at 171 after an 83.
   Much like Alabama in Athens, the top seed at the Albuquerque Regional, No. 1 Stanford rose to the top of the pack in the team standings, adding a 5-under 283 to its opening-round 290 that gave it a 3-under 573 and a four-shot lead over No. 36 Pepperdine.
   The Waves added a solid 2-over 290 to their opening-round 287 for a 1-over 577 total. No. 6 Southern California is another three shots back in third at 4-over 580 after a 3-under 285 and No. 9 Duke is fourth at 9-over 585 after matching par with a 288.
   Rounding out the top six are No. 26 California in fifth at 10-over 586 after a 3-over 291 and  defending national champion Washington, ranked 40th, in sixth at 11-over 587 after a 4-over 292. Stanford, Southern Cal, Cal and Washington give the Pac-12 four of the top six slots.
   The leader in the individual standings is also wearing Stanford red as Albane Valenzuela, a freshman from Switzerland and the No. 4 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, added a 3-under 69 over the 6,637-yard, par-72 University of New Mexico South Championship Course to her opening-round 71 for a 4-under 140 total.
   Backing up Valenzuela for the Cardinal is Shannon Aubert, a junior from Stuart, Fla. who is tied for seventh at 1-under 143 after carding a 1-under 71. Andrea Lee, a freshman from Hermosa Beach, Calif. and the No. 7 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, had a 2-under 70 and is tied for 13th at 1-over 145.
   Lee is joined at that figure by Casey Danielson, a senior from Osceola, Wis. who added a 73 to her opening-round 72. Danielson and Aubert are both veterans of Stanford’s run to the NCAA final in each of the last two seasons, the Cardinal capturing the title two years ago and coming up short against Washington last spring.
   Rounding out the Stanford lineup is Sierra Kersten, a sophomore from Spokane, Wash. who is tied for 66th at 154 after shooting a 76.
   One of the heroes of Washington’s run to the title a year ago, Julianne Alvarez, a sophomore from New Zealand, carded a 3-under 69 and is tied for second a shot behind Valenzuela at 3-under 141. Alvarez was joined at that figure by one of the individual entrants, Cal State-Fullerton’s Martina Edberg, a senior from Sweden. Edberg’s 4-under 68 was the low round of the day in Albuquerque.
   Leading the way for Pepperdine was Tatiana Wijaya, a senior from Indonesia who added an even-par 72 to her opening-round 70 and is tied for fourth at 2-under 142. She is joined at that figure by North Carolina State’s Laura Kowohl, a sophomore from Germany, who had a 73 after grabbing the opening-round lead with a 3-under 69, and another individual entrant, Gonzaga’s Bianca Pagdanganan, a sophomore from the Philippines who added a 3-under 69 to her opening-round 73.
   Another Pac-12 entry, No. 7 Arizona State, is dominating the Lubbock Regional as four of the five Sun Devils in the lineup broke par in an 11-under 277 that left them at 6-under 570.
   Host Texas Tech, ranked 34th, carded a 2-under 286 and is alone in second, 12 shots behind Arizona State at 6-over 582. The Pac-12’s Oregon, ranked 47h, and No. 10 Furman, are tied for third at 7-over 583. Oregon carded a 1-over 289 while the Southern Conference champion Paladins fired a 5-under 283. Big 12 champion Texas, ranked 18th, is alone in fifth at 13-over 589 after a 1-over 289.
   Two teams are tied for that all-important sixth spot and one of them, ironically, considering all the success the Pac-12 is having, is Pac-12 champion UCLA, the No. 2 team in the country and the top seed in Lubbock. The Bruins had a second straight 296 and are tied with No. 15 Kent State at 16-over 592.
   Arizona State also has the individual leader in Monica Vaughn, a senior from Reedsport, Ore. and a member of the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team. Vaughn added a 4-under 68 over The Rawls Course, a 6,593-yard, par-72 layout, to her opening-round 71 for a 5-under 139 total.
   Linnea Strom, a sophomore from Sweden and the No. 10 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, and Olivia Mehaffey, a freshman from Ireland and the No. 9 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, are tied for seventh at 1-under 143 for the Sun Devils. Each carded a 3-under 69 Tuesday.
   Roberta Liti, a junior from Italy, carded a 1-under 71 and is tied for 15th at 2-over 146. Sophia Zeeb, a junior from Germany, is tied for 36th at 150 after posting a 76.
   Trailing Vaughn by two shots at 3-under 141 in the individual chase are Brigham Young’s Alex White, a senior from Lompoc, Calif., and Furman’s Haylee Harford, a sophomore from Leavittsburg, Ohio. White added a 2-under 70 to her opening-round 71 while Harford carded a 3-under 69 after opening with a 72.
   UCLA’s Lilia Vu, a sophomore from Fountain Valley, Calif., came to Lubbock on a streak of four straight individual tournament titles and had the lead after an opening-round 68. She fell back with a 2-over 74 and is tied for fourth at 2-under 142. She was joined at figure by Texas’ Sophia Schubert, a junior from Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Kent State’s Pimnipa Panthong, a freshman from Thailand.    Schubert had a second straight 71 while Panthong added an even-par 72 to her opening-round 70.
   No. 4 Florida is the top seed in the Columbus Regional and the Gators are playing like it, although they are getting some heat from host Ohio State, ranked 29th. And everybody is battling The Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course.
   Florida added a 5-over 293 over the challenging 6,416-yard, par-72 Scarlet Course to its opening-round 297 for a 14-over 590 total. The Buckeyes carded a 1-over 289 and are a shot behind Florida at 25-over 591.
   Florida’s in-state rival Florida State, ranked fifth, is another six shots behind Ohio State in third at 21-over 597. No. 12 South Carolina matched Ohio State’s 1-over 289 to move into fourth at 22-over 598.
   Rounding out the top six are two of Ohio State’s Big Ten rivals, No. 33 Michigan in fifth at 605 and No. 27 Purdue at 607. The Wolverines had a 5-over 293 Tuesday while the Boilermakers carded a 305.
   If the Boilermakers can hold on to their top-six position, a trip to Rich Harvest Farms would be a nice reward for a team that has been grinding hard all season.
   Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware improved 10 shots from its opening-round 320 with a 310 and is 15th at 630.
   Kelly Grassel, a senior from Chesterton, Ind., led the way for Florida as she matched par with a 72 after an opening-round 74 and is tied for fourth at 2-over 146. Marta Perez is tied for 12th at 4-over 148 after a 3-over 75 and Taylor Tomlinson, a junior from Gainesville, Fla., carded a second straight 75 and is tied for 18th at 150.
   Karolina Vickova, a senior from the Czech Republic, bounced back from an opening-round 80 with a 1-under 71 and is tied for 22nd at 151. Maria Torres, a senior from Puerto Rico, is tied for 37th at 154 after a 79.
   The individual lead belongs to Texas A&M’s Maddie Szeryk, a junior from Allen, Texas who posted a 2-under 70 after opening with a 73 for a 1-under 143 total.
   Michigan’s Elodie Van Dievert, a sophomore from Belgium and the Big Ten champion, carded a 1-under 71 and is tied for second, two shots behind Szeryk at 1-over 145. Van Dievert is joined at that figure by Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee, a sophomore from Canada who added an even-par 72 to her opening-round 73.

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