Top team: USC (even-par 288)
Top individual: Erica Popson, Tennessee (4-under 68)
In position (the next seven): 2. Virginia (290), 3. Tennessee (292), 4. UC Davis (300), 5. Texas A&M (301), 6. Oregon (302), T-7. South Carolina, Arizona, BYU (303)
Chasing (the next four): T-10. Iowa State, Washington (304), 12. Portland State (305)
Subbing in: USC junior Lisa McCloskey might not have been able to join her team at the NCAA West Regional, but her replacement did her justice Thursday as the Trojans took a two-shot lead on Virginia at Washington National Golf Club in Auburn, Wash. McCloskey, the No. 4-ranked player in Golfweek’s rankings, is out nursing a rib injury, so junior Inah Park filled in. She led a trio of Trojans (including senior Lizette Salas and freshman Rachel Morris) at 1-over 73. The group is part of a seven-way tie for 10th.
Freshman Sophia Popov led the USC charge Thursday with a 1-under 71. As a team, the Trojans were at even-par 288. Head coach Andrea Gaston says it’s a good start as her team looks for its second consecutive regional title (the team won the Central Regional last year).
“We are happy with the first round,” Gaston said. “The girls played pretty steady on a difficult course. It’s very demanding and requires every club in the bag. The greens are huge and even if you hit a green, it doesn’t mean you two-putt for par. It’s a difficult course and the teams that keep it in play and are patient will make it through the region.
USC entered the tournament as Golfweek’s top-ranked team and the top seed in the West.
-Information from USC Athletics used in this report.
Going for four: Erica Popson is on track to win a fourth consecutive tournament this week at the East Regional. The Tennessee sophomore shot 4-under 68 at Washington National to lead Popov and UC Davis’ Demi Runas by one stroke.
Popson, who also won the individual title at the SEC Championship, closed her day with a 35-foot birdie putt to get to 4 under.
“I’m very happy with the way I played today,” Popson said. “I hit a lot of fairways and I hit a lot of greens. I gave myself a ton of putts for birdie and I made a lot of three- and five-footers for par. I’m really happy with the way I putted. It’s always exciting to be in the lead.”
-Information from Tennessee Athletics used in this report.
Short shots: North Dakota State sophomore Amy Anderson, playing as an individual, left herself in contention to qualify as an individual. Anderson shot even-par 72 to land in a four-way tie for sixth place. The top two individuals not on an advancing team earn an NCAA Championship berth. . . . Tennessee freshman Chessey Thomas made a hole in one at No. 11, a 150-yard par 3. . . . The NCAA West Regional has officially gone tech. Fans can follow the action live via Twitter by clicking here.