USC Women Open Regional Tied For 6th

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By Sports Department

STANFORD, CA (USC SID) -- The South Carolina women's golf team moved into position to make a weekend run at the NCAA West Regional title as it posted an opening-round 296 (+12) to finish the day in a tie for sixth place on Thursday at the Stanford Golf Course.

The Gamecocks, who have won two regional titles in the last three years, are tied with Georgia and trail tournament leader Vanderbilt by just seven strokes. The Commodores turned in a 5-over 289 to take a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Southern California (290). The top eight teams and top two individuals not on those teams will advance to the NCAA Championship.

"We had some momentum at the beginning, but this golf course is a bear and can be really tough," South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said. "You have to be paying attention all of the time. The greens are fast. You have to stay below the hole and have some real precise shots. There are some holes you just have to get through and some shots you have to make out here in order to play well. I thought the team did really well and dealt with adversity well."

Sophomore Justine Dreher led the way on Thursday, shooting a 1-over 72 to finish the round in a tie for 15th. She began her day with a bogey at the 10th hole but bounced back two holes later with a birdie on the par-5 12th. After recording another bogey on the 13th, Dreher rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th to move back to even. A birdie on the 17th left her at 1-under at the turn. She bogeyed three of her first five holes on the back nine before closing out the round with three straight pars and a birdie from the fringe on the ninth hole to get into the clubhouse at 1-over.

Junior Suzie Lee battled all afternoon on her way to shooting a 2-over 73 to move into a tie for 22nd. She got off to a strong start with birdies on two of her first three holes. However, she closed out the front nine with four pars, a bogey and a double bogey to make the turn at 1-over. She sank a birdie putt on the par-5 first hole to begin the back side. After making three consecutive pars, Lee made bogey and double bogey on the fifth and sixth holes to drop back to 3-over. She responded by making an eagle on the par-5 seventh but gave another stroke back with a bogey on the eighth to finish the day at 2-over.

Senior Meredith Swanson carded a solid 4-over 75 to wrap up the round in a tie for 46th. She carded six bogeys and two birdies on the day, including one on the par-4 ninth to conclude her round with some momentum. Freshman Sarah Schmelzel also gave the Gamecocks a strong effort with a 5-over 76, which has her in a tie for 63rd. She made four straight bogeys to begin her day but settled down to play the final 14 holes at 1-over. Rounding out the lineup, freshman Mary Fran Hillow carded an 82 (+11) to finish the round in a tie for 114th.

"I couldn't be more proud of the way they finished, and that's what it's all about," Harris said. "We are going to have to keep finishing the rest of the week. Hopefully, that will put us in the top eight. I think if we continue to do those things and stay mentally tough that will, hopefully, do the job."

Southern California's Annie Park sits atop the individual leaderboard after firing a 4-under 67 on Thursday.

The Gamecocks will tee off in the second round on Friday at 11:50 a.m. PDT and will be paired with LSU and Denver. Live scoring will be available through Golfstat.

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS
T15. Justine Dreher (1) 72 (+1)
T22. Suzie Lee (3) 73 (+2)
T46. Meredith Swanson (4) 75 (+4)
T63. Sarah Schmelzel (2) 76 (+5)
T114. Mary Fran Hillow (5) 82 (+11)

TEAM STANDINGS 1. Vanderbilt 289 (+5) 2. Southern California 290 (+6) 3. Purdue 291 (+7) 4. Oregon 292 (+8) 5. Baylor 295 (+11) T6. Georgia 296 (+12) T6. South Carolina 296 (+12) 8. California 297 (+13) 9. Denver 299 (+15) T10. Texas A&M 300 (+16) T10. Arizona 300 (+16) T12. LSU 301 (+17) T12. San Jose State 301 (+17) T12. Stanford 301 (+17) T12. Ohio State 301 (+17) 16. Kent State 302 (+18) 17. Pepperdine 303 (+19) T18. Miami 307 (+23) T18. Northern Arizona 307 (+23) T20. Harvard 309 (+25) T20. North Dakota State 309 (+25) T22. UNLV 310 (+26) T22. Florida State 310 (+26) 24. Long Island 322 (+38)

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