ATHENS, Ga. – Isabelle Lendl (Goshen, Conn.) is in a four-way deadlock for eighth while Evan Jensen (Belleair, Fla.) is close behind, currently tied for 12th with seven other golfers at the conclusion of the first round of the 39th-annual Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic.
The University of Florida women’s golf team completed day one in a tie for 15th after posting a team score of 300 (+12) at the par-72, 6,335-yard University of Georgia Golf Course.
“The team played pretty well except for four holes,” Florida head coach Jan Dowling said. “We had a stretch from the first through fourth holes that really got us but besides that, we played pretty well and we will bounce back tomorrow.”
This year’s Liz Murphey Classic is using a scoring format in which each team plays together in a fivesome. The lowest four scores on each hole will determine the team total at the conclusion of each round.
Only seven of the 120 golfers in the field were at or under par on a day where birdies were at a premium.
Florida began play on the seventh hole where Jessica Yadloczky (Casselberry, Fla.) and Mia Piccio (Bacolod City, Philippines) birdied the par-5, while Jensen, Lendl and Andrea Watts (Bradenton, Fla.) shot par, putting the Gators at two-under immediately. The Gators remained in the top seven for the majority of the day until the last six holes.
For the third straight tournament, Lendl played a strong first round, firing a 73 (+1). She was steady throughout, shooting par on her first five holes and after sending a ball into the water on 12, still managed to salvage a bogey after burying a 40-foot putt. After four more pars, she made her first birdie on the par-5 17th to return to even. Lendl followed a bogey on No. 4 with a birdie on No. 5, before bogeying the final hole to finish her round.
“She did the smartest thing you could probably do at this golf course,” Dowling said in reference to Lendl’s preparation. “On every green in our practice round yesterday, she put three balls right in the middle of the green and putted from that spot. One, it helped her with her speed. Two, it gave her a really good visual of where she wanted to be. These green complexes are very difficult and it’s better to be on the green putting than off the green chipping onto the green. She did a great job with the speed of her putts. She made a lot of longer putts today.
“She made some swing changes in the fall and she’s worked very, very hard. One of her main goals was to gain some yardage and she’s done that. She’s getting comfortable with her ball-striking. In the fall, because she was working on her golf swing, she wasn’t spending as much time working on her chipping and putting but now that she’s comfortable with her swing, she’s able to spend more time on her short game.”
Jensen was a model of consistency throughout the day. After going birdie-bogey on Nos. 8 and 9 respectively, she played the back nine at one-under. She began to build momentum after chunking a wedge shot on 17 but still getting up-and-down and punctuated her solid play with a birdie on the par-5 18th that had her tied for fourth at that point. Jensen closed with three pars and three birdies and at the conclusion of the day, sits just outside the top-10 after registering a 74 (+2).
“She was very consistent,” Dowling said. “She missed greens a couple of times but didn’t make any big mistakes. She’s a very good thinker and you have to be a good thinker to play this course well. She knew when to be aggressive and when not to be.”
Piccio, who has risen to a career-high No. 66 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, opened with a birdie on No. 7 to jumpstart the Gators early. Along with Lendl, she was lurking on the periphery of the top 20 halfway through the round until a string of five consecutive bogeys dropped her down the leaderboard. The Philippines native concluded day one with a 79 (+7).
Yadloczky began well as she recorded Florida’s first birdie of the morning on the opening hole. The Gator senior was three-over through 12 before finding difficulty in her last six holes where she carded four bogeys, leaving her with an 18-hole score of 79 (+7).
Watts completed her afternoon with a final tally of 85 (+13).
The Gators are scheduled to begin play at 9:30 a.m. ET on No. 12 along with Ohio State in the second round of the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic. Lendl will be the first Florida player to tee off followed by Jensen, Yadloczky, Piccio and Watts.
“We will bounce back,” Dowling said. “The important thing is, especially playing in this format, they really have to focus on their own (individual) games. We did a pretty good job of it today and I think we are going to get better and better at it.”
Team Scores After Round 1
1. Purdue 284 (-4)
2. Alabama 286 (-2)
T3. Duke 291 (+3)
T3. Georgia 291 (+3)
5. Florida State 293 (+5)
T6. Arkansas 294 (+6)
T6. Auburn 294 (+6)
T6. Virginia 294 (+6)
T6. Wake Forest 294 (+6)
T10. Kennesaw State 295 (+7)
T10. Oklahoma 295 (+7)
T12. Michigan State 296 (+8)
T12. South Carolina 296 (+8)
14. North Carolina 297 (+9)
T15. Florida 300 (+12)
T15. Ohio State 300 (+12)
17. Notre Dame 302 (+14)
18. LSU 303 (+15)
19. Furman 304 (+16)
20. Kent State 306 (+18)
21. Kentucky 307 (+19)
T22. Chattanooga 311 (+23)
T22. Georgia State 311 (+23)
Florida Results After Round 1
T8. Isabelle Lendl 73 (+1)
T12. Evan Jensen 74 (+2)
T78. Mia Piccio 79 (+7)
T78. Jessica Yadloczky 79 (+7)
T113. Andrea Watts 85 (+13)