SUNSET, S.C. – The barrage of late birdies enabled the Vanderbilt women’s golf squad to claim a share of the first-round lead Sunday at the Clemson Invitational.
The Commodores, ranked seventh nationally entering the weekend, opened the tournament with a 10-under-par team total of 278. They share the lead with No. 14 Auburn entering round two of the 54-hole tourney being played at The Reserve at Lake Keowee, a 6,260-yard Jack Nicklaus design near the Clemson campus.
Greg Allen’s Commodores, coming off a victory at the Lamkin Invitational in Southern California two weeks ago, are aiming to match a program record this week with their fifth team win of the year.
Courtney Zeng continued her superb play as a senior, pacing the Commodores with a 4-under-par round of 68. It matched Zeng’s second lowest round of the year, behind only a 7-under 65 fired at the Powerade Cougar Classic in September.
Zeng received plenty of support from teammates Auston Kim, Abbey Carlson and Louise Yu. Kim fired a 3-under 69, while Carlson registered a 2-under 70. Yu finished with a 1-under 71.
The Commodores started strongly, registering eight birdies on the front nine to grab an early lead. After a brief lull on the back nine, they concluded the round impressively by collecting seven birdies over the last closing four holes.
Allen was pleased with his Commodores’ composure during the opening round.
“I thought the girls came out with a lot of focus and maintained it throughout the round,” Allen said. “I’m really proud of the effort, the attitude and the body language we are playing with right now.
“There’s potential for weather delays the next couple days so it’s important that we continue to maintain our focus and patience,” the coach added.
Zeng was remarkably consistent in firing the 68. The product of Orlando, Florida made four birdies, including three on her final four holes, in the bogey-free round. Zeng is tied for second place in the individual competition, trailing Auburn’s Julie McCarthy by two strokes.
Kim started the day on a mission. The freshman opened with four birdies to shoot a front nine of 32, then responded late with birdies on No. 16 and No. 18 for her 69. She is tied for seventh place in the medalist race.
Carlson was over par through seven holes, then made birdies on No. 7, No. 8 and No. 10 to finish with a 2-under total. Yu also posted four birdies, including one on No. 18, to post a under-par round.
The fifth Commodore participant, Morgan Baxendale, failed to post a birdie in a round of 79.
Live results and second-round pairings can be found at Golfstat.com.
Clemson Invitational First Round Results
The Reserve at Lake Keowee
Par 72, 6,260 yards
T-1. Vanderbilt 278 (-10)