BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – LSU juniors Ali Lucas and Lindsay Gahm each posted 2-over par rounds of 74 to help the 31st-ranked LSU Lady Tigers to post an early score and gradually move to the top of the leaderboard by sunset after the rain-delayed Southeastern Conference Women’s Golf Championship came to a conclusion Friday at the Founder’s Course of Greystone Country Club.
The Lady Tigers, off the tee first after a four-hour rain delay along with Kentucky and Tennessee, were able to post a score and watch the rest of the field come back to them. LSU found itself at one point 13th in the standings, but far ahead of the field in number of holes to play and gradually as the holes equaled out, LSU found itself on top with a one-day score of 15-over 303.
Lucas and Gahm are in a group tied for third individually, one shot out of the lead entering Saturday’s second round.
“It’s about trying to minimize mistakes,” said LSU Coach Karen Bahnsen. “We did make a few mistakes out there. It’s a tough course. There are a lot of tough pins out there, but there are going to be a lot of tough pins every day. But it’s just keeping your mind there and fighting all the way to the end because you can’t give in to this golf course. You can’t because it is tough. I love it in that good courses require you to think the whole way around. We just got to try to eliminate mental mistakes.”
“This team is fighters,” Bahnsen added. “That’s how we play. We don’t always start out right but this is one group that never gives up. That’s what we are going to do.”
The Lady Tigers did show lots of fight, especially when moving to the back nine which features three par fives and three par threes on the par 72, 6,401-yard course.
LSU’s four counting scores turned in 11-over par on the tougher front nine, but came home in just 4-over par to also propel them up the leaderboard.
No more was that fight seen than in sophomore Madelene Sagstrom, LSU’s average leader and ranked 25th in the country, was six-over after six holes after a triple-, double-, bogey stretch on the fourth-sixth holes. Sagstrom rallied to play the final 12 holes in 2-under par, birdieing the par 5 13th and 15th holes to finish at 4-over 74, tied for 12th.
The Lady Tigers are one shot better than Alabama at 16-over par 304 with what is now a wide-open event with Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina all tied for third at 18-over 306. Two-time defending champion Auburn is 14th at 33-over 321 in this the first 14-team SEC tournament and the first with more than 12 teams since 1996.
For Lucas and Gahm it was solid play throughout as Lucas turned in even par and posted 38 on the back nine in the four-bogey, two-birdie round. Gahm also had four bogeys and two birdies, but she posted just the opposite with a 2-over front nine and an even par score on the final nine holes.
Gahm’s birdie on the par-3 17th came after she nearly put the ball in for an ace leaving just a tap-in for her birdie. Lucas had several chances for other birdies in the round as she was able to put the ball in good position for potential attempts.
Besides both being juniors, both are transfers. Gahm, from Louisville, Ky., is in her second year in the program after transferring from Indiana, while Lucas, who hails from Crowley, joined the Lady Tigers this season from ULM.
Gahm, ranked 84th in the country, and Lucas are tied with Justine Dreher of South Carolina and Rocio Sanchez Lobato of Georgia at 2-over 74. No golfers broke par as Sarah Harris of Kentucky and Stani Schiavone of Ole Miss are the first-round leaders at 1-over 73. The average score for the 70 golfers was 70.59 and no player had more than three birdies.
LSU also counted a 7-over 79 from freshman Nadine Dreher for its 15-over total.
The Lady Tigers did not have their best stuff in their final tournament of the regular season at the Rebel Intercollegiate two weeks ago. But Bahnsen said her team went to work in the time between the final event and the SECs to get ready for their next start.
“This is probably one of the hardest working teams I’ve had in a long time, if not ever,” said Bahnsen. “They practice smart. They don’t just go out and beat balls in practice. It’s not with (assistant Alexis Rather) or I having to force them. We’ll go out there and they are working on the areas they need to work on. They practice smart. We had a week off after we didn’t have our best and we went home and worked on the smart things we needed too.”
The first round was completed in temperatures that finally reached into the low 50s once the sun finally came out late in the day. With the late finish of the first round, the SEC announced the second round will now start at 10 a.m. LSU, Alabama and Georgia will now tee off at 11:40 a.m. off the first tee.
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SEC Women’s Golf Championship
Greystone Country Club – Founder’s Club
First Round Team Results (Par 288)
1. LSU 303 +15; 2. Alabama 304 +16; 3. Georgia 306 +18; 3. Kentucky 306 +18; 3. Mississippi State 306 +18; 3. South Carolina 306 +18; 7. Vanderbilt 309 +21; 8. Tennessee 312 +24; 8. Missouri 312 +24; 10. Arkansas 313 +25; 11. Florida 315 +27; 12. Ole Miss 317 +29; 13. Texas A&M 318 +30; 14. Auburn 321 +33.
Individual Top 10 (Par 72)
1. Sarah Harris, Kentucky, 73 +1; 1. Stani Schiavone, Mississippi, 73 +1; 3. Ali Lucas, LSU, 74 +2; 3. Lindsay Gahm, LSU, 74 +2; 3. Rocio Sanchez Lobato, Georgia, 74 +2; 3. Justine Dreher, South Carolina, 74 +2; 7. Sara Monberg, Tennessee, 75 +3; 7. Mary L. Gallagher, Miss. State, 75 +3; 7. Kendall Martindale, Vanderbilt, 75 +3; 7. Jennifer Kirby, Alabama, 75 +3; 7. Stephanie Meadow, Alabama 75 +3.