Central: Top-seeded USC takes early lead
Top team: USC (298)
Top individual: Marina Alex (Vanderbilt)
In position: 2. Georgia (299), 3. Purdue (301), 4. Notre Dame (304), T-5. Tennessee, Auburn (306), 7. North Carolina State (307)
Chasing: T-8. Oregon, Virginia, Vanderbilt (308), 11. South Florida (309)
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Their kind of place: It’s no surprise that USC emerged as the top team after one round of the NCAA Central Regional. The Trojans, ranked No. 3 by Golfweek tend to step it up by the time regionals roll around.
Geographically, Ohio State’s Scarlet Course is a long way from home, and it felt that way during windy and rainy conditions Thursday morning. The Trojans, however, have a tendency to fare well in the Midwest. USC has won five regional titles in the past six years, and three of those were in the central region.
“The course is playing tough,” head coach Andrea Gaston said. “It was blowing about 15-20 mph and the greens are drying out, so they’re getting even faster. Overall, we are pleased with our position. Hopefully we’ll separate ourselves even more tomorrow.”
This year is the first time Lisa McCloskey has played regionals in a USC uniform. After transferring from Pepperdine following her sophomore year, McCloskey had to sit out of last year’s postseason with a rib injury. Safe to say Gaston is happy to have her healthy. McCloskey shot 1-over 73 on Thursday as freshman teammate Doris Chen led the Trojan charge with 72. Both were named to the All Pac-12 first team earlier this month.
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Pluck of the Irish: Notre Dame is making the most of its No. 17 seed. The Irish skated into the postseason ranked No. 52 in Golfweek’s rankings but are only six shots off the lead after one round. The team had a historic 2010-11 season – finishing fifth at the Central Regional for the first national championship berth in program history. They enter regionals this year after a one-shot loss to South Florida at the Big East Championship.
Notre Dame is benefiting greatly from freshman Ashley Armstrong, who won the conference championship and led the Irish on Thursday with a first-round 72. She received help from the “old guard” in Becca Huffer, who was one shot behind her.
Perhaps it doesn’t hurt that head coach Susan Holt knows the Scarlet Course well. Holt was a four-year letter winner on the Ohio State women’s team, and graduated in 1988.
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Short shots: Stetson’s Alex Buelow and Nebraska’s Madeleine Sheils are representing their respective schools as individuals this week, and are tied for fourth after a first-round 72. Buelow spent the past summer on the Symetra Tour circuit with good friend Jackie Barenborg (a Florida Southern graduate) while Sheils broke through in October by winning the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. . . . Keep an eye on Vanderbilt senior Marina Alex, who leads the field after a first-round 70. Alex, recently named the SEC Player of the Year for the second time in her career, has extra motivation to get herself and her team to the NCAA Championship this year: It’s being held at her home course.
–Information from USC Athletics used in this report