AUBURN, Ala. – Sophomore Mia Piccio (Bacolod City, Philippines) paced the No. 24 University of Florida women’s golf team with an opening round 71 (-1) that has her tied for ninth, five strokes behind the leader, Erica Popson of Tennessee, on the first day of the 2011 SEC Championship.
As a team, Florida completed day one in eighth after posting a team score of 301 (+13) at the par-72, 6,364-yard Auburn University Golf Club.
“The most important thing Is that there is a lot of golf to play,” Florida head coach Jan Dowling said. “It’s disappointing that we had to count some bigger numbers today. We were not able to limit our mistakes the way we had the last couple of weeks but there are two rounds of golf left. We will make some good adjustments and be ready to go tomorrow and Sunday.”
Piccio, who is ranked a career-high 64th nationally in Golfstat’s rankings, narrowly missed equaling a Florida season-high for birdies in a round after making seven in round one, falling one shy of Isabelle Lendl’s eight in the first round of the Allstate Sugar Bowl earlier this spring. She began with birdies on 10, 11 and 12, and added another on 16, helping to boost the Gators to the top of the leaderboard early.
”On 11, she hit it left and got a good break and hit it to about six feet and made it,” Dowling explained. “On 12, a par-5, she was just on the front of the green in two and hit a good chip to about a foot or two and made it. On 16, she hit the green in two, which is a pretty reachable par-5 and two-putted for her birdie there so she played a pretty good front nine.”
Piccio was two-under heading to the back nine where she birdied three of her next four holes to rise to second place at four-under before bogeying three of her last five holes to end the afternoon at one-under.
“I think she’s a little bit frustrated with her wedge play coming through on the last three holes particularly and that left a bitter taste in her mouth but she can’t forget that she made seven birdies and she can go and do it again the next two days,” Dowling said. “She’s put herself in a pretty good position. Making seven birdies in a round is going to boost your confidence.”
Junior Evan Jensen (Belleair, Fla.) tallied a 73 (+1) that put her in a seven-way tie for 19th. She started well, shooting par on 10 and 11 before making her first birdie at the par-5 12th to move to one-under. She remained at one-under at the turn and after a bogey on No. 2, went birdie-bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey on No. 4 through No. 8 to finish at one-over.
“She hit it great today,” Dowling said. “The only thing that held her back were some speed (of the green) issues with her putting. She feels pretty good about the next couple days.”
Both Piccio and Jensen took advantage of the par-5’s on the course, shooting three-under on the four holes.
“They both drove it straight and they hit it in the right spots,” Dowling added. “If you do that, good things are going to happen.”
Sophomore Isabelle Lendl (Goshen, Conn.) was even through five before bogeys on 15 and 17 left her at two-over midway through the round. After a bogey on No. 1, she birdied No. 2 – a hole that only two other golfers birdied in the first round – and recovered from a double bogey on No. 5 with her second birdie of the day on No. 7 en route to carding a 77 (+5).
Junior Andrea Watts (Bradenton, Fla.) opened with a birdie on 10 before a tough stretch of holes dropped her to nine-over. She rebounded with birdies on No. 4 and No. 7 and closed with an 80 (+8).
Senior Jessica Yadloczky (Casselberry, Fla.) got off to a rough start, shooting an eight-over on her front nine but picked up her play on the back side, making a birdie on No. 1 – which was the third-toughest playing hole Friday – and recorded a one-over on her final nine holes to finish with an 81 (+9).
The Gators are scheduled to begin play at 10:20 a.m. ET along with Vanderbilt and South Carolina in the second round of the SEC Championship. Yadloczky will be the first Florida player to tee off on No. 16, followed by Watts, Lendl, Jensen and Piccio in 10-minute intervals.