Fist-pumping bogeys, Baylor and Ohio State lead morning wave in brutal conditions at NCAAs

Amy Lee (Baylor Athletics)

Fist-pumping bogeys, Baylor and Ohio State lead morning wave in brutal conditions at NCAAs

Women

Fist-pumping bogeys, Baylor and Ohio State lead morning wave in brutal conditions at NCAAs

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SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Baylor’s Amy Lee began her 2017 NCAA Championship with a chip-in birdie at Rich Harvest Farms’ par-4 10th. She followed with a birdie at No. 12 to quickly jump 2 under through three.

If only the rest of the day were that easy.

As the NCAA Championship dawned Friday, significant winds and rain showers met this elite field. Oh, and temperatures were in the low 40s.

High winds and rain in cold temperatures? Welcome to Illinois in May!

“It was a survival test,” said Therese Hession, Ohio State’s head coach.

The 23rd-ranked Buckeyes were among the best at surviving early, as Ohio State posted a 23-over 311 to tie the lead among the morning wave – which featured the 12 lowest-ranked squads by Golfstat in the 24-team field.

The other co-leader? Baylor, ranked 17th by Golfweek.

Ohio State is of course a northern-based school, but Baylor is in Waco, Texas.

Had Baylor ever even seen these types of conditions? Well, head coach Jay Goble had, at the opening round of the Big 12 Championship in Ames, Iowa … in 2013.

“I think we shot about 30 over par (Editor’s note: it was 31 over) that day, so to shoot 23 over today sounds like an improvement,” Goble joked.

An improvement, and a score that has Baylor in early position to make match play – the Bears reached it in 2015 and made it all the way to the finals.

But could these teams avoid any craziness on Day 1 in this weather? That was impossible.

Coming off No. 18 green, Oregon’s Petra Salko raised both of her arms in celebration and broke out into a smile. She shot 12-over 84.

Salko was just happy she had finished her round. Lee couldn’t remember all of what happened in hers.

“Everything was just kind of a blur (out there),” Lee said, with a laugh.

One thing she did recall: Fourteen holes after cruising out to 2 under, Lee was fist-pumping bogeys. Yes, bogeys.

Lee pulled her tee shot at the par-4 eighth left in a hazard, dropped, blasted a 3-wood into the front bunker and got up and down for bogey.

And then a fist pump. To Lee’s credit, that hole’s scoring average has been hovering around a full stroke over par.

“I was just happy that I got up and down from the bunker. There’s not many days you’ll be fist pumping a bogey, that’s for sure,” Lee said.

Honestly, though, her best was yet to come.

Lee followed with a closing par, fist pumping after burying a 6-8 footer to complete a 5-over 77. A 77 from the 33rd-ranked player in the nation, and she fist-pumped a par just for that result.

“She fist-pumped it like she just won the U.S. Open,” Goble said.

The conditions were that tough, as Lee’s 77 was just five off the morning lead. And she wasn’t alone in excitement over bogeys.

To wit: Hession was fist pumping when Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee bogeyed 18 to shoot 79.

Baylor had four players best 80 on the day with Lee’s 77 and Dylan Kim, Fiona Liddell and Maria Vesga all posting 78. The Buckeyes had just three below 80 but got a huge contribution from Katja Pogacar (who shot 74).

Katja Pogacar (Ohio State Athletics)

No other team from the morning wave had more than two scores better than 80.

So how were Ohio State and Baylor able to weather the nearly literal storm? It helps that both groups harp on dealing with whatever’s out there.

While some tees were moved forward – the fourth hole tee box was up some 40 yards – the course was relentless. On top of all the brutal conditions, players had to adjust to a a different wind. The breeze almost entirely switched directions from Thursday, as teams played that practice round day at Rich Harvest Farms with the wind coming out of the south but returned for the opening 18 playing it out of the north/northeast.

The switch could mean a 30-yard difference from how the hole played the previous day. Hession talked to Meg Mallon, a four-time major champion and former Ohio State golfer, prior to the tournament on what to expect at Rich Harvest Farms (Mallon knew the course previously as an assistant captain of the U.S. squad in the 2009 Solheim Cup).

The main takeaway was course management. On a Friday with this deluge of challenges, that advice comes in handy.

But managing the mind may have been most important. How did the Ohio State players take the brutal turn in weather? Without a single complaint.

“No one said a peep about anything bad, good, nothing,” Hession said.

If they can have that attitude in this weather, these teams may get the long week in Illinois they’re hoping for.

– Brentley Romine contributed to this report

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