ORLANDO, Fla. – The Vanderbilt women’s golf team opened the spring season Sunday by shooting its way into contention at the UCF Challenge.
The Commodores, sparked by sub-par rounds by Courtney Zeng, Auston Kim and Abbey Carlson, posted a team score of 5-under 283. They will enter second-round play fifth in the 16-team field, just four shots behind tourney-leading College of Charleston.
The performance was in stark contrast to Vanderbilt’s opening round at the UCF Challenge a year ago when they struggled to a 16-over 304 total.
Zeng, a senior playing in front of family and friends in her hometown, enjoyed a bogey-free round of 2-under 70. She was joined at 2-under by freshman Auston Kim, a product of St. Augustine, Fla. Carlson, from nearby Lake Mary, Fla., fired a 1-under 71.
Greg Allen‘s Vanderbilt squad got off to a slow start in the round, but combined to register an eagle and eight birdies over their closing nine holes to move up the leaderboard.
“I was telling the team afterward that we haven’t really played a competitive round since early November. That probably showed a little bit early on,” Allen said. “They just had to knock the rust off and I thought the girls did a nice job of responding the further we got into the round.
“We left some strokes out there, but considering everything, we’re right where we want to be after the first day of competition. I thought our confidence level and overall attitude was really good,” the head coach added.
Zeng was the most consistent Commodore performer. Coming off a strong fall campaign topped by a runner-up individual finish at the Powerade Cougar Classic in September, Zeng notched two birdies to go with 16 pars in her 2-under par round.
The long-hitting Kim dominated the par 5s. She topped the 96-player field with a 4-under performance on the four par 5s at Eagle Creek Golf Club. Kim’s round was highlighted by an eagle at the 508-yard No. 16.
Carlson, one of the nation’s leading performers during the fall, made four birdies in a 1-under par round.
Zeng and Kim are in a tie for 16th for medalist honors entering play Monday. Carlson is in a tie for 24th position.
A third Commodore playing near her hometown, sophomore Morgan Baxendale, made two birdies while posting an even-par 72. She is tied for 37th in the individual race.
Sophomore Louise Yu of Peachtree Ridge, Ga., made three birdies but finished with a four-over 76.
Playing as an individual, sophomore Virginia Green from Fairhope, Ala., registered a 6-over 78.
Second round action will start Monday at 7:45 a.m. CT at the 6,349-yard Eagle Creek course. Live results and pairings can be found at Golfstat.com.
UCF Challenge Team Standings
5. Vanderbilt – 283
Other Vanderbilt Participants
T-94. Virginia Green +6 (78)