NORMAN, Okla. — Heading into Monday’s opening round of the NCAA Norman Regional, Texas Tech head coach JoJo Robertson stressed the importance of a strong start for the Red Raiders’ chances to advance.
The Red Raiders followed with six birdies over their first five holes en route to a 1-under-par 287 opening round, placing Tech in a four-way tie for third place heading into the final two days of the 54-hole event. Tech enters Tuesday’s second round with a two-stroke gap in its quest to be one of the six advancing teams.
“The team played great today,” said Robertson, who has the Red Raiders in their ninth regional of her tenure. “We talked briefly last night about relaxing. That has kind of been our issue in the past in that we dig ourselves into a hole in the beginning. We also talked about the forecast and we might not have 54 holes, so we just need to come out ready to go from the start.”
Sofia Garcia once again paced the Red Raiders as she sank three birdies over her first nine holes before adding a pair of strong approaches for birdies at the par-3 6th and the closing par-4 9th. Her 3-under 69 card pushed her into a tie for second individually, one stroke back of leader Michaela Fletcher of Memphis.
Garcia, whose only blemish came via a double bogey at the par-3 2nd, ended the day tied for the most birdies among the 96 participating players. Tech drained 15 birdies as a team, which ranked second among the 18-team field.
Anna Dong, making her regional debut, chipped in four birdies of her own on her way to an impressive even-par round, while Mami Yamamoto, Louisa Brunt and Cecilie Nielsen each added a pair of birdies, respectively. Yamamoto signed for a similar even-par card that placed the duo in a tie for 24th overall.
“It’s great to have some of those scores and lots of birdies today,” Robertson said. “Anna didn’t finish the way she wanted to and neither did Mami on that final hole, but for them to do that and shoot even, it helps us a lot. I think they’ll have some confidence going into tomorrow.”
Nielsen provided Tech’s last contributing score with a 2-over round followed by Brunt at 4-over. Nielsen was also making her regional debut as Tech utilized a lineup consisting of a lone senior in Yamamoto as well as two sophomores (Garcia and Brunt) and a pair of freshmen.
Florida jumped out to the opening-day lead at 4-under, one stroke better than second place N.C. State. Tech is three strokes back of the Gators in a tie with top-seeded Texas as well as Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Purdue is the next-closest school in seventh place at 1-over.
Brunt will be the first Red Raider off the tee Tuesday as she will go off at 8:30 a.m. from the No. 1 box. Live scoring will be provided throughout the round at www.Golfstat.com.
(Courtesy: Texas Tech Sports Communications Department)