Lady Bulldogs, Sirmons Second after First Round

Georgia makes a run for the national title in women's golf

AUBURN, Wash. -- After posting the best scores on the team and individual fronts among the first 12 teams to complete opening round action at the 2002 NCAA Women's Golf Championships, the No. 10 Georgia Lady Bulldogs watched intently as many of the nation's top teams and individuals took the course in the afternoon.

Five hours later only one team and one player had bested the Lady Dogs' scores.

Following the first 18 holes of the 72-hole NCAA Championships, Georgia, the defending national champions, is tied with No. 2 Duke in second place in the team standings at 294. No. 7 Arizona placed three golfers among the top-10 performers en route to a 3-under 285 and an nine-stroke lead. Three SEC teams -- top-ranked Auburn, No. 11 Florida and No. 22 South Carolina -- are tied for fourth at 298 along with California.

Individually, Georgia junior Summer Sirmons' 3-under 69 left her a single shot behind Duke's Oui Nirapathpongporn on the leaderboard. Angela Jerman, the 2002 SEC Golfer of the Year, is among seven golfers tied for third at 70.

"I'm pretty pleased," Sirmons said. "I was afraid of the weather -- that was my biggest concern. The golf course is in great condition and it's very scoreable, as long as the weather stays good."

For much Tuesday's morning wave Jerman and Sirmons treated the top spot of the individual leaderboard as their own personal game of leap-frog. Three times during their final nine holes they swapped the NCAA lead at the Washington National Golf Club in suburbs of Seattle. When first 12 teams completed play, it was Sirmons who sat atop the field a stroke better than her teammate.

Sparked by those stellar rounds, Georgia was the leader in the clubhouse. The Lady Bulldogs' carded 6-over tally was four strokes better than their first-round effort a year ago en route to the NCAA Championship.

"Obviously, A.J. and Summer played wonderfully," head coach Todd McCorkle said. "We were just one score away from having a really good round, but I'm pleased. If you would have told me before we started that we were going to shoot 294, I think I would have been very satisfied with that."

In addition, freshman Natalia Nicholls fired a 3-over 75. Whitney Christie and Abbi Francis both posted an 8-over 80, the Lady Bulldogs' fourth counting score.

All five of Georgia's golfers struggled early, while the lower end of the lineup faltered late. The Lady Bulldogs teed off from hole No. 10 and played the first four holes at 5-over before settling down and playing the rest of their round at just 1-over.

After a bogey on No. 10 to open, Jerman posted birdies on No. 11, No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 to make the turn at 3-under and atop the leaderboard. Sirmons bogeyed No. 12 but responded with consecutive birdies at No. 14 and No. 15 to turn at 1-under.

While Sirmons birdied No. 1 and No. 3 to move to 3-under, Jerman bogeyed No. 2 to drop to second. Almost simultaneously moments later, Jerman birdied No. 4 while Sirmons bogeyed No. 5 to flop positions. Jerman bogeyed No. 6 to fall to 2-under but shortly thereafter Sirmons birdied No. 8 to move to 3-under. That's where they stayed the rest of the morning.

Nicholls bogeyed No. 12, double-bogeyed No. 13 and bogeyed No. 16 to fall to 4-over. A birdie on No. 9 gave her momentum entering her back nine. After a bogey on No. 6, Nicholls' immediately birdied No. 7 and then finished her round with a pair of pars.

Francis bogeyed four of the last eight holes. Christie played her first 16 holes at 6-over but bogeyed both No. 8 and No. 9 to end her round.

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