Central: Florida leads, even without senior Lendl
Team leader: Florida (6-under 282)
Individual leader: Emily Collins, Oklahoma (5-under 67)
In position: 2. Oklahoma (283), 3. Duke (284), 4. TCU (290), T-5. Michigan State, UC Davis (291)
Chasing: T-7. Mississippi State, Arizona State, Wisconsin, Indiana (292), 11. Coastal Carolina (293)
Change in the lineup: So much of Florida’s success in the fall – the Gators won twice and finished runner-up once – was built upon the Camilla Hedberg-Isabelle Lendl one-two punch. Florida’s regional lineup, however, requires a double-take. Lendl’s name is missing.
“We wanted to field the best team we could so kind of a mutual understanding that she wasn’t going to travel with us,” head coach Emily Bastel said.
Lendl, No. 44 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and the second-highest Gator, finished 64th at the SEC Championship and T-32 before that. In her absence, however, fellow senior Mia Piccio stepped up with a 3-under 69 at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Normal, Okla., and junior Elcin Ulu led the team with a 68. That’s a career-low round for each player, and freshman Ursa Orehek also tied her career-low 71.
A 6-under total gets the Gators off to a solid start. That’s counting a 74 from sophomore Camilla Hedberg, the team’s leading scorer. Bastel said Hedberg caught few breaks in her round, including on the putting greens.
Team-wise, Thursday’s score shows a notable rebound after finishing 13th as a team at SECs. Bastel said that finish, the worst this season, lit a fire in her team.
“We were all really disappointed and that was not a goal going in there to play like that,” she said. “I think it did inspire them; I think we learned a lot from the experience.”
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The Duke of old: For the first time in three years, Duke, the top seed in Norman, Okla., enters regionals without a buzz. The Blue Devils experienced a winless season in 2010-11, and failed to advance out of the Central Regional. It was the first time in 13 years head coach Dan Brooks traveled to the NCAA Championship with an individual, not a team.
Duke qualified for the NCAA Championship with a team of four players last year after then-sophomore Alejandra Cangrejo injured an elbow in the first round. This year, a healthy Duke fivesome enters postseason after a 24-shot routing at the ACC Championship. Duke’s opening 4-under 284 left the Blue Devils in third, two shots off Florida’s pace. Brooks, for one, was pleased.
“Particularly at regionals, it is nice to get off to a good start,” he said. “We are going to keep fighting. We are going to try to win this. It has to do with seeding at the NCAA Championship. You want to get a good seed and that all is based on how you finish here. So we have a lot of reason to try to win this.”
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Short shots: Wisconsin was going strong early in the first round, but counted a triple and two bogeys over its final three holes. The Badgers still are just 10 shots back. Their best regional performance came a decade ago, when they finished sixth. . . . Lori Beth Adams, a junior at North Carolina-Wilmington, posted the low score among the six individuals at the Central Regional. Adams’ first-round 69 included six birdies. . . . Oklahoma junior Emily Collins shot her first bogey-free round in competition Thursday, a 5-under 67. That put Collins atop the individual leaderboard. Her Sooners are second.
–Information from Duke Athletics used in this report