For all the noise the Florida women’s golf team made entering Friday’s NCAA Championship, one might have reasonably thought UF was a strong contender for the title. The fifth-ranked team in the nation entered the weekend following a grind-it-out style win in the NCAA Regional in Columbus, Ohio.
However, the past rarely means much when a national championship is on the line. The Gators learned this the hard way over the first round in Sugar Grove, Illinois, as the team struggled from start to finish, landing themselves in 16th place out of the 24-team field.
As a unit, UF managed only three birdies on the day. Seniors Maria Torres and Karolina Vlckova, along with junior Taylor Tomlinson, finally managed to break par after their first nine holes. However, it was hardly enough to drag Florida up from the hole it had dug itself in. The Gators shot a combined 28-over through their front nine and ended the day at 32-over, 19 strokes behind the leading Northwestern squad.
Senior Kelly Grassel, who won a share of the individual title at the Columbus regional, could not find that same rhythm as she failed to crack par for the day. Grassel finished her day at 9-over, placing her in a tie for 70th place with nine others out of the 132-player field.
The good news for the Gators may come from the fact that the rest of the field is struggling as well. The individual leaders, August Kim of Purdue and Elodie Van Dievoet of Michigan, only sit at even par after day one.
However, for the Gators to make any sort of noise, they will need better play from their upperclassmen. Grassel, Torres, Tomlinson and Vlckova combined for 23 bogeys and six double bogeys through the first 18. Vlckova may be in the best position to do something about the team score, having finished in an 11-way tie for 33rd at 6-over.
As a team, the Gators placed 14th out of 24 in converted pars on the day and 20th in made birdies.
On a day where the elements played a large role in the team’s performance, coach Emily Glaser offered hope for the rest of the tournament.
“The conditions were some of the worst I have seen,” Glaser said in a release. “Mainly because you had everything: wind, rain and cold. The scores are tight and this is by no means over. We have three more rounds and I think the most important thing to focus on at this point is learning from today and playing as hard as we can for the next three days.”
Contact Morgan McMullen at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin.
Karolina Vlckova (right) celebrates with coach Emily Glaser during the 2015 Suntrust Gator Invitational at the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville.