Senior Celeste Troche paced Auburn with a one-under-par 70 to lead the fifth-ranked Tigers to a 298 total, 14 over par and 10 strokes off the pace set by Duke on the par-71, 6,114-yard Salem Glen Country Club.
Troche is tied for fourth place individually after Thursday's competition, the first of three days of play. Junior Diana Ramage shot 75 and is tied for 31st place, senior Anne Hutto shot a 76 and is tied for 41st while sophomore Kingsley Barrett and freshman Maria Martinez are tied for 50th with rounds of 77.
Auburn, which is ranked fifth nationally, trails No. 1 Duke (288), No. 25 FSU (290), No. 14 Georgia (294) and No. 7 Vanderbilt (295). Auburn is two shots ahead of East Carolina (300) and three ahead of No. 22 North Carolina. Eight of the 21 teams in the regional will advance to the NCAA Championship May 20-23 at Purdue University's Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. Eight teams each from the Central Regional in Lincoln, Neb., and from the West Regional in Tempe, Ariz., will also qualify for the nationals.
"We had a good day," Auburn coach Kim Evans said. "On the first day you want to put yourself into position to win and we did that. We are going to come out (Friday) and play hard and try to win this tournament. Celeste Troche had a great round and I am extremely proud of Anne Hutto for stepping in and playing well." Hutto is a late substitute for injured All-American Danielle Downey.
Auburn finished tied for second nationally in 2002.