May 5, 2011

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The second-ranked and top-seeded UCLA Bruins lead the field after day one of the NCAA Central Regional, which is being played at the University of Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course. Individually, Notre Dame’s Nicole Zhang and UCLA’s Ani Gulugian share the top of the leaderboard at one-under par (71).

After falling to two-over par after the first four holes, Zhang played the final 14 holes at three under to climb into red numbers. The freshman also put together back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth holes to finish the front nine at even par (36).

“My driver has been the strongest aspect of my game today,” said Zhang. “On this course you need to get (the ball) in play if you are going to play well, and I was able to do that today.”

Gulugian put together a similar card to Zhang’s, finishing her round with three birdies, two bogies and 13 pars. After playing the front nine at even, she entered her final hole at level par before posting a birdie-3 to pull into the first-place tie.

“I felt like I was hitting the ball really well and making a lot of great putts and just being consistent,” stated Gulugian. “It took a little time to adjust to the wind, but I just tried to keep a good tempo with the wind swirling and such.”

In team competition, the Bruins put together the top round of the day, finishing at three over par (291) to carry a four shot lead over LSU (295, +7) into second round action. Aside from Gulugian’s one-under score, Lee Lopez (72, E), Stephanie Kono (74, +2) and Glory Yang (74, +2) closed out the UCLA scoring.

“It feels good (to start well),” remarks UCLA head coach Carrie Forsyth. “I think we have played well, and after our rather poor PAC-10 tournament, we were trying to get some momentum going for nationals. I want the girls to have a good tournament and feel good about their games when we leave here.”

The Tigers turned to Megan McChrystal and Amalie Valle, who posted identical scores of 72 (E), to pace their lineup. Entering the 17th hole, McCrystal, the number one player in the Golfstat rankings, sat at three over par but finished with a bang, carding an eagle on No. 17 before closing with a birdie on No. 18. Austin Ernst (74, +2) and Jacqueline Hedwall (77, +5) completed the LSU rotation.

The host Notre Dame Fighting Irish round out the top three after finishing at 10-over par (298) after day one. Becca Huffer finished second amongst the Irish at three over par (75) with So-Hyun Park and Katie Conway finishing one stroke back with identical scores of 76 (+4).

The shot of the day came on the par-3, 14th hole where Kent State’s Mandi Morrow fired a six iron from 169 yards out for a hole-in-one. The junior finished the day two over par (74) to lead the Golden Flashes.

“Making the hole-in-one felt pretty good,” remembered Morrow. “I hadn’t been playing too well up to that point, and it really helped boost my confidence. I actually got a hole-in-one when I was in 3rd grade, but it’s been a while since then. I was just hoping to get the ball on the green, and when it went in, I just threw my hands up. It felt great to get that shot after a few not-so-good shots before then.”

Second round action gets underway on Friday, May 6 at 8:00 a.m. (ET) with a split-tee start from holes one and 10.