West: Vandy leads in maiden trip to West Regional
Team leader: Vanderbilt (5-over 289)
Individual leader: Annie Park, USC (4-under 67)
In position: 2. USC (290), 3. Purdue (291), 4. Oregon (292), 5. Baylor (295), T-6. Georgia, South Carolina (296), 8. California (297)
Chasing: 9. Denver (299), T-10. Texas A&M, Arizona (300)
Often a bridesmaid: It’s been a close-call kind of season for Vanderbilt as the spring was dotted with three runner-up finishes and two fourth-place finishes. The Commodores now are facing off against top-ranked and top-seeded USC at Stanford (Calif.) Golf Course.
It’s the 14th consecutive regional appearance for Vanderbilt (15th overall), but here’s a little something different: The Commodores were sent west for the first time in program history. Vanderbilt made just one other trip west of the Mississippi this year, for the Stanford Intercollegiate in October. The team finished fifth.
Vanderbilt counted even-par rounds from Kendall Martindale and Irina Gabasa on Thursday, then added a 74 from Jenny Hahn and a 75 from Lauren Stratton. It left them with a slim one-shot lead on USC, which already won at Stanford in the fall. The Trojans got a big boost from first-semester freshman Annie Park in Round 1 as Park shot 6-under 67.
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Gamecocks lurking: South Carolina’s postseason record has been impressive in recent years. But like Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks are in new western territory this year. They shot 12-over 296 on Thursday and are seven shots off the pace. This is only the second trip to the NCAA West Regional in program history.
South Carolina won the East Regional in 2010 and again in 2012 before finishing a program-best fifth at the NCAA Championship. South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris has two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior in the lineup at Stanford. That group finished third at the SEC Championship on April 21, which was the team’s best finish so far this season.
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Short shots: Stanford posted a 17-over 301 on its home course, which is the worst score it has posted there in five competitive rounds this season. The Cardinal are 12 shots off the lead. . . . Georgia’s Emily Burger posted the second-best first-round score, a 3-under 68. Burger began her day with three birdies, but ended with a double-bogey at the ninth, her final hole of the day. . . . Oregon is gunning for its first NCAA Championship appearance since 2010 after missing by one shot in 2011 and again in ’12. The Ducks opened with an 8-over 292 and are in fourth.