Tigers Off To Strong Start At NCAA Tournament

Bend, Oregon--Auburn coach Kim Evans gave her team's opening day performance at the NCAA Women's Golf Championship a thumbs up review and says she hopes the best is yet to come.

Auburn opened competition at the tournament with steady play throughout the first 18 holes of the 72-hole event and heads into day two in third place, three shots off the pace.

Cross-town rivals Southern Cal and UCLA of the Pac 10 are at the top of the leader board. Southern Cal is first at plus three, 287. UCLA is the defending champion, winning the title last year at Grand National Lakes Course in Opelika, Ala., with Auburn as the host. The Bruins finished Tuesday's round at 288.

Auburn's six-over-par 290 total is the low first-day score for the Tigers at the national championship event. AU shot a 298 on day one at the 2002 NCAA Championship as the Tigers finished second that year.

"It was cold and windy and I couldn't ask for a better first day performance from our team," says Evans. "We went out and just played real solid golf."

Junior Maria Martinez and freshman Abigale Schepperle led the Tigers with one-over-par totals of 72 on a day when no hole on the Sunriver Course played under par for the 24-team field. They are in a tie for 12th individually.

Schepperle shot a one-under-par 34 on the front nine, but had two bogeys on the backside to move over par. Martinez was even par on the front nine and had three bogeys and two birdies on the backside.

Senior Diana Ramage and sophomore Nicole Hage each shot 73 for the Tigers, who did not count the high score of 79 posted by freshman Margaret Shirley.

"I was especially proud of freshman Abigale Schepperle, who we just put in the lineup," Evans says. "She handled it like a veteran. We were a little nervous at the start, but everybody showed real good signs of strength and confidence. We are hoping that we go out and put the pieces together the next couple of days."

The Tigers, who came into the event ranked No. 3 nationally after winning the NCAA Central Region tournament in Lubbock, Tex., are looking for the first NCAA golf title in school history. They are trying to do that on the 6,312-yard Meadows Course that features small greens and tough pin placements.

"We aren't used to the greens yet, but we are hoping that will happen as the week goes on," Evans says.

Auburn is one shot ahead of Pepperdine, two ahead of Duke and Washington and five ahead of Cal. Arkansas is eighth at plus 12, Oklahoama State is plus 14 and Tennessee and Stanford are tied for 10th at 16-over-par 300.

Only two golfers finished under par. Carolina Llano of Pepperdine had the low round, a two-under-par 69, three shots better than Auburn's best rounds.

Day One Results

The Golf Channel will provide television coverage on the final three rounds on tape delay with the schedule as follows:

 Thursday, May 19: 12-2 a.m. CDT; 4-6 p.m. CDT (replay)

 Friday, May 20: 12-2 a.m. CDT; 3-5 p.m. CDT (replay)

 Saturday, May 21: 12-2 a.m. CDT; 3-5 p.m. CDT (replay)

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