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Early UNCW birdies set up first-round co-lead

Early UNCW birdies set up first-round co-lead

There may be no bigger confidence boost than 15 team birdies in the opening fives holes of a postseason tournament. That was the case for the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in Friday’s first round of the 2024 Women’s National Golf Invitational.

Starting on the back nine, UNCW’s five starters blistered their opening holes at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona. That stretch included only two bogeys. Head coach Cindy Ho felt like it was a little bit of uncharted territory, but she watched proudly as her team continued to go low. The Seahawks capitalized on those short opening holes with dialed-in wedges. Players had paid attention during the practice round, noting where first-round pins would be and they came out prepared.

A handful of holes in, the challenge came in controlling the pace. Ho thinks her players might have gotten a little bit aggressive – perhaps giving birdie putts a little too much speed, in some cases, as the momentum grew and then missing the comebackers. That contributed to a few bigger numbers that brought UNCW back to the field.

Scores: Golfweek National Golf Invitational | Photos from 2024 NGI

“For us, we’re not a team that goes deep that often so part of it was it happened so fast – we always talk about being in our comfort zone, but you can be in your comfort zone by being over par too fast and being under par too fast because you’re trying to learn how to handle the situation,” she said.

Starting at No. 15, the birdies ebbed and a few bogeys began to stack up. UNCW logged a double and a triple on the par-4 18th before making the turn. After being double-digits under par at one point early in the day, UNCW closed the first round at 1 over, one shot ahead of Rutgers.

Santa Clara is third at 5 over and Chattanooga is fourth at 8 over. Chattanooga’s Violeta Fernandez leads the individual race after a 3-under 69.

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is a fast golf course. There often isn’t a lot of depth to the greens and that puts a premium on decision making. Ho has preached commitment.

“I think we’re learning the golf course right now and just trying to plan the best we can,” Ho said. “We don’t want to play too conservatively, you know you probably need to make some birdies out here. It’s just trying to figure out, let’s not put ourselves where we make too many bogeys or double bogeys. But you can’t start laying up with a 9-iron.”

UNCW won its first start out of the gate this past fall at…


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