UC Davis leads Conference Challenge by three

UC Davis junior Amy Simanton

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WOLCOTT, Colo. – The girls from UC Davis might consider taking up residence in Colorado after this week. The Centennial State, after all, has been good to them.

The Aggies avoided the blow-ups that plagued much of the rest of the field at Red Sky Golf Club’s Fazio Course on Monday, surging to the top of the leaderboard at the end of the day with a 6-over 294. The round marked the ninth day UC Davis has been in Colorado, and a win would be the team’s second here. The Aggies also won the season-opening Ptarmigan Ram Classic last week in Fort Collins, which, as head coach Anne Walker explained, could be either a blessing or a curse.

“It can be a good thing or you can turn it into a real expectation, pressure thing,” Walker said. “What we tried to do with it was just really enjoy it. We’ve talked a lot about if you want to be there at the end of the season you have to take it one day at a time and keep getting better because every team gets better all year long.”

UC Davis garnered its lead in unconventional form, starting slow but catching the leaders as they gave up ground with big numbers.

“We just played pretty steady,” Walker said. “The girls ... didn’t make any big mistakes.”

It’s a style of play that junior leader Demi Runas latched on to after the practice round. If you’re not paying attention, Runas explained to the rest of the team on the eve of the first round, there are several opportunities for the slick greens and elevation changes to get the best of you.

The Aggies haven’t seen a day in the classroom yet, as school starts next Thursday, but already Walker shakes her head and grins at the sense of unity displayed by freshmen Beverly Vatananugulk and Blair Lewis. Vatananugulk is T-10 with juniors Runas and Amy Simanton.

“I would say the biggest thing is the two freshmen that I have, it’s like they bleed blue and gold,” Walker said. “They are so committed to UC Davis, they are so proud to be out there wearing our colors.”

UC Davis leads Oregon by three shots after a day of extreme highs and lows for the Ducks. The team counted five double bogeys and two eagles (they threw out three more doubles and another eagle). Oregon was as many as 5 under and held a seven-shot lead at one point in the afternoon, but backed up coming into the clubhouse.

“It was really an interesting back nine, but all things considered, I think we played 18 well,” head coach Ria Scott said. Every Oregon player birdied the par-5, downhill finishing hole.

In their first outing of the season, Oregon finished at 9-over 297. The team holds a share of second place with Coastal Carolina. With a roster heavy in underclassmen, Scott knows you have to start somewhere, and based this season’s team motto on that very principle.

“Our theme for this season is everything is new, and it’s all about the future,” she said.

Denver, the closest thing to a local team in the field, is fourth at 11-over 299. Mississippi and Pepperdine, which won the inaugural Conference Challenge in 2009, are tied for fifth another shot back.

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