Cavaliers hold 11-stroke lead as they begin their defense of their 2015 crown.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – A year’s absence from Sedgefield Country Club did little to cool down the Virginia Cavaliers.
The defending champions fought off Friday’s windy conditions to post a 5-under team score of 283 and led by 11 shots following the opening round of the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Golf Championship.
Virginia’s fast start encored the 2015 Championship, which saw the Cavaliers post a three-day score of 27-under par en route to their first ACC title. Virginia compiled an ACC-record team score of 837 to place 26 shots ahead of then three-time defending champion Duke.
“We really like this course,” Virginia coach Kim Lewellen said. “Every year it gets better and better. The greens here are really phenomenal. My upperclassmen have played here many years now, and they understand the course and have it mapped out really well.”
Senior Lauren Coughlin led the charge on Friday with a 6-under par 66 to share the first-day lead with Wake Forest freshman Jennifer Kupcho. The score was just one stroke shy of the tournament’s record-low round of 65 carded by Florida State’s Kristin Tamulis in 2003.
Coughlin led a balanced Virginia effort that included a 1-under 71 by junior Lauren Diaz-Yi, an even par 72 by freshman Anna Redding and a 74 by her classmate Morgan Gonzales.
“We had consistent play across the board,” Lewellen said. “I was happy with the play of our upperclassmen, but also thrilled to get an even round and a 2-over from two of our first-years. That bodes well for the future of our program.”
Duke and Wake Forest shared second place in the team scoring following Friday’s opening round with a 6-over score of 294, with NC State fourth at 297, followed by Clemson and North Carolina in fifth place at 298.
Florida State (299), Miami (301), Boston College (304), Notre Dame (310), Louisville (311) and Virginia Tech (320) rounded out the first-day team scoring.
Virginia’s Coughlin closed her opening round with a clutch 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th after overshooting the green on the par-5 hole on her second shot.
“I was really hoping to eagle the hole, but my second shot just flew,” she said with a laugh. “But making birdie was a nice way to finish.”
Despite the double-digit stroke team lead, Coughlin said she and the Cavaliers look to start from scratch on Saturday.
“The plan is to keep the pedal to the metal and to try not give up any strokes,” she said. “If we just keep going and playing our game, we should be all right.”
Kupcho’s round included five birdies and a round-closing eagle on the 18th hole. The Littleton, Colorado, native posted her collegiate career low, bettering her previous best round of 68 by two strokes.
“I was hitting the ball pretty well today,” Kupcho said. “I wasn’t really shooting at pins, I was playing the middle of the green. I made two really long putts, and obviously that helped my score.”
With Coughlin matching her score and more of the ACC’s leading players lurking on the leader board, Kupcho wasn’t resting on Friday’s laurels.
“I shot a 66 today, but there are two whole days of golf left,” she said. “I still have stuff to work on, maybe in my short game. I only missed one green today, so I really don’t know how I chipped. I probably should go practice my chipping so I can keep going and do well tomorrow.”
Defending medalist Leona McGuire of Duke finished four shots back on Friday with a 2-under round of 70. Miami junior Daniela Darquea and NC State freshman Naomi Ko each carded opening rounds of 71 to share fourth place with Diaz-Yi.
ESPN3 will be on hand to live-stream Saturday’s second-round action beginning at 2 p.m., and plans final-round coverage on Sunday from 1 p.m. until the tournament’s conclusion. Sam Gore will handle the play-by-play, with former Wake Forest standout Laura Diaz – the 1995 ACC champion who went on to post 57 top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour – serving as color analyst.