CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Senior Victoria Vela paced the No. 30 University of Arkansas women’s golf team firing a 72 in first round action at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational at Finley Golf Course in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday.
The Razorbacks are in the clubhouse with a 301 and are tied for ninth overall overall as a team. Vela, a Mansfield, Texas, native, is tied for ninth overall with her first round 72. That mark ties her fourth-best career round at Arkansas.
“It was almost like restarting the year with such a long break since our last tournament,” Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said. “We were a little competition rusty but fought hard down the stretch. We have two days to climb and we know that we are better than our score today. We just have to come out and execute.”
Vela opened her day on the first tee and was even through the first two holes before dropping her first birdie putt on the par five third hole. She birdied again on the fifth hole with a two on the par three. Although she gave a stroke back with a bogey on six, Vela turned two under with a birdie on the ninth hole.
Vela bogeyed the 11th hole but moved to two-under with a birdie on the 15th and looked to finish below par. She struggled with a double on the 16th hole to finish even on the day.
“I can’t say enough about Vickie,” said Estes-Taylor. “She was not in line up at Ole Waverly and fought really hard to get into line up for this tournament. She was a great leader when things were tough out there. She played a fantastic round of golf today.”
Junior Emma Lavy opened with a four-over 76 in the second tournament of the season. Lavy was plus four on the front nine and picked up her fifth bogey on the 12th hole. The Fayetteville, Ark., native finished strong however, with a birdie on the par four 16th hole to shoot 76. She is tied for 41st.
Freshman Gabriela Lopez matched Lavy in her second career collegiate event. Lopez posted a 76 for the round shooting two over on each side.
Two-time All-SEC and All-American Emily Tubert struggled a bit in the first round finishing with a five-over 77. The Burbank, Calif., native turned at plus-six but picked up a birdie on the par four 10th hole to settle in. Tubert was even for the final eight holes of the day. Tubert is tied for 53rd overall
“Emma and Emily really fought hard on the back nine,” said Estes-Taylor. “They definitely turned their rounds around by changing their mindset. They committed to the process and it showed coming down the stretch.”
Freshman Regina Plasencia, who just returned from Turkey at the Women’s Amateur Team Championship last week, posted a first round, six-over 78. She was four over through the first nine but rallied with two birdies on the back nine.
Plasencia carded a three on the par four 10th hole and counted a two on the par three 14th. However, a bogey and a double on 17 and 18 added to her number. Plasencia is tied for 64th overall.
Arkansas is 15 back of the leader but just five strokes out of a top five spot.
“Our goal is to go out and walk and talk like champions,” Estes-Taylor said. “We want to have the right mindset and be ready to go for the next two rounds.”
The course challenged several of the teams on the first day of play. Twenty-fourth-ranked Virginia is the day one leader with a two-under 286. The top five includes No. 21 North Carolina and No. 34 Baylor tied for second with 288, LSU in fourth with 294 and No. 5 Duke in fifth with 296. The rest of the field includes South Carolina in sixth with 298 followed by No. 43 Ole Miss with 299, No. 13 North Carolina State with 300, No. 30 Arkansas at 301 tied with fourth-ranked Florida in ninth. Eighth-ranked Michigan State is 11th with 302, Louisville and No. 47 Wake Forest are tied for 12th with 304, No. 25 Kentucky is 14 with 305, No. 45 UCF is 15th with 307, Colorado and No. 11 Auburn are tied for 16th with 311 and Michigan is 18th with 319.
Play continues through Sunday on the par 72, 6379 yard Finley Golf Course.