HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, FLA. - The top-ranked and top-seeded Duke women's golf team kicked off the 2004 NCAA East Regional in stellar fashion on Thursday as the Blue Devils carded a 2-under-par round of 286 and lead by 11 strokes at the Par 72, 6,165-Yard El Campeon Course in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
Duke (286) leads UNLV (297), Oklahoma State (298), Tulane (301) and Auburn (302) rounds out the top five. It marks the 16th time this season the Blue Devils have registered an under-par round as a team.
'Today I saw good shots, but I also saw quite a few misses,' said Duke Head Coach Dan Brooks. 'I think our best golf is ahead of us.'
Senior Leigh Anne Hardin and freshman Brittany Lang each led Duke with 1-under-par rounds (71) on the morning. Hardin, a product of Martinsville, Ind., came into the final hole with a 2-under-par score, but suffered her only bogey on the day as she missed the green on the final hole and could not get up and down.
'Leigh Anne has been such a hard worker on her golf swing and her swing is looking better right now than it has looked since she has been at Duke,' said Brooks. 'The nice thing is she is starting to own it-she is starting to swing the club in this new technique like she has always done it this way. That is what we have needed her to do. She is starting to store power and hit the ball longer. Leigh Anne knows what it feels like to hit a ball hard now and that is the greatest thing going on in her game at this time.'
Lang made the turn at even par and was able to also obtain a 2-under-par score through 12 holes, but had a bogey on the par-4 hole 13. A McKinney, Texas, product, Lang led Duke with four birdies. Both Hardin and Lang are tied for fourth in the individual competition.
The nations top-ranked individual golfer, Liz Janangelo posted an even-par 72 on the day and sit in tied for seventh place along with freshman Anna Grzebien. Janangelo began the morning with a birdie of the first hole but suffered bogies on holes seven, eight and nine. The product of West Hartford, Conn., had three birdies on the day, all of which came on par 5s.
Grzebien, a Narragansett, R.I., native, notched three birdies and three bogies on Day 1 to finish with a 72. She was about to post a birdie on the par-5 hole 17 to move to even par. Overall, Duke owns four golfers in the top seven of the individual competition.
The 2001 East Regional Champion, Virada Nirapathpongporn, began her day with three bogies on the first four holes and later collected one birdie and one bogey on the back nine to finish with a 3-over-par 75. The Bangkok, Thailand, native is in tied for 19th place after round 1.
'What is nice is they gave us a good golf course this time,' said Brooks. 'It is set up pretty tough and the pins are in tough spots. This is a course where I am not surprised that we are separated a little bit, because I think every time we have been tested by the golf course this year we have had solid wins. We tend to excel when the course is difficult.'