BRYAN, Texas - Freshman Austin Ernst may have put it best after her even-par, 72, first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championships.
"Pars are great."
It was pars that put the fifth-ranked (Golfweek/Sagarin)/seventh-ranked (Golfstat) LSU Lady Tigers in a strong position after the first round, tied for third with defending champion Purdue at 4-over par 292.
The Lady Tigers are three shots out of the lead of No. 2 ranked UCLA at 1-over 289 and one shot out of second held by No. 5 Virginia at 3-over 291.
LSU got even-par rounds from its top three players - Megan McChrystal, Ernst and Jacqueline Hedwall -- and their rounds of 72 put them in a tie for 10th in the individual competition after the first day of the 72-hole event that runs through Saturday.
Both McChrystal and Ernst had three bogeys and three birdies while Hedwall had two bogeys and two birdies. The pair combined for 38 pars, with Hedwall parring every hole on the back nine. McChrystal had one of her back-nine flourishes with her three birdies coming in the final five holes, including 17 and 18, while Ernst got back to even on the 17th hole.
"This is kind of the same way we did in the regionals," said LSU coach Karen Bahnsen of her team's opening round. "We were in there fighting for every stroke and keeping our composure and that's the key. They kept their poise about them. That's why we continue to finish strong and that's what we've got to do the rest of the week. Just stay in our own little world. Don't worry about what is going on around us because you can't control that and keep managing their game. They fought all the way to the end and it was a total team effort. I know Tessa (Teachman) had a couple of bad holes but we aren't focusing on that because she is so close. We believe in each other a lot and we are going to keep fighting every single day."
LSU's 292 round was the second-lowest the Lady Tigers have shot in an NCAA Championship, bested only by the 291 in the opening round in 1998 in Madison, Wisc.
LSU's other counting score was Amalie Valle's 4-over 76, playing the last 16 holes in 2-over.
Ernst, a freshman from Seneca, S.C., is trying to finish in the top 10 in all three of LSU's postseason events, and she knows how important the pars and par saves were for her and the team.
"I hit the ball okay," said Ernst. "I didn't hit a lot of greens early in the round. But things settled down. The winds were tough at times. It's a case of just keep grinding and I got some key putts to fall toward the end. It's a good start for us and now we just need to build on it."
"You are playing the NCAA Championship, you've got the USGA pins and they make great pin placements and you just have to be very patient," said Bahnsen. "With the wind blowing it's hard to get it close so you have to remain patient and they did a good job of that (Wednesday)."
Bahnsen walked with McChrystal over the last 12 holes and helped get the senior rolling including some spectacular par saves, the best of which was a two-putt on No. 8 from 70-plus feet on the undulating double green that serves both 8 and 17.
"She was over thinking that wind at the beginning of the round," said Bahnsen. "So I just tried to get her to not worry about it and just focus on hitting golf shots. You have to think through it, but not over think it. Focus in and commit to the shot and she really did that coming home."
After LSU and Purdue in the team competition is Florida of the SEC at 6-over par with host Texas A&M in sixth at 7-over and Arizona State at 8-over. Vanderbilt (9-over), Wake Forest (10-over) and Tennessee (playing with LSU, 11-over) round out the top 10. No. 1 USC is tied for 12th at 14-over par.
Brittany Altomare of Virginia, the 17th-ranked player in the Golfstat rankings, is the first-round individual leader at 3-under par 69. Nine players broke par in the first round.
There is little time to enjoy the round as the LSU team got off the course just before 6:45 p.m., headed to dinner and will tee off Thursday at 8:55 a.m. in the second wave of the second day of competition. The teams remained paired with the teams they played with on Wednesday (LSU with Tennessee and North Carolina). The 12 teams that played in the afternoon get morning tee times on Thursday, followed by those that played on Wednesday morning.
Live scoring for the second round can be found www.LSUsports.net through www.NCAA.com. Updates throughout the round will be available on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LSUwomensgolf and at Twitter @LSUwomensgolf.
NOTES - The NCAA elected to move the holes around at the Traditions Course, especially on the front nine, to allow for the possibility of a more exciting finish. The original nine finishes with a short par three, but that is now No. 2. Basically the original No. 8 hole is No. 1, etc ... What it has presented is two par 4s for 9 and 18 that run parallel to each other to a double green that serves both holes ... It is one of two double greens on the course that serves the outward and inward nine ... LSU was 51-31 against the NCAA field this year and 132-43-1 overall entering the tournament.
NCAA D1 Women's Golf Championship
Traditions Club - Bryan, Texas
First Round Team Results (Par 288)
1. UCLA 289 +1; 2. Virginia 291 +3; 3. LSU 292 +4; 3. Purdue 292 +4; 5. Florida 294 +6; 6. Texas A&M 295 +7; 7. Arizona State 296 +8; 8. Vanderbilt 297 +9; 9. Wake Forest 298 +10; 10. Tennessee 299 +11; 11. Alabama 301 +13; 12. Southern California 302 +14; 12. South Carolina 302 +14; 14. Ohio State 303 +15; 15. Arizona 304 +16; 16. Arkansas 305 +17; 16. Minnesota 305 +17; 16. North Carolina 305 +17; 19. California 306 +16; 20. Stanford 308 +20; 20. Notre Dame 308 +20: 22. Washington 312 +24; 23. UC Davis 313 +25; 24. Coastal Carolina 322 +34.
First Round Individual Top 5 (Par 72)
1. Brittany Altomare, Virginia, 69 -3; 2. Caroline Powers, Michigan State, 70 -2; 2. Michelle Shin, Wake Forest, 70 -2; 2. Glory Yang, UCLA, 70 -2; 5. Katie Burnett, South Carolina, 71 -1; Numa Gulyanamitta, Purdue, 71 -1; 5. Tiffany Lua, UCLA, 71 -1; 5. Calle Nielson, Virginia, 71 -1; 5. Marta Silva Zamora, Georgia, 71 -1.