GREENVILLE, S.C. -- The Furman women's golf team carded an opening round 286 Sunday to grab the first-round lead at the 43rd Lady Paladin Invitational at the par-72, 6,266-yard Furman University Golf Course in Greenville, S.C.
The Paladins (-2), who notched their best round in Lady Paladin Invitational history and the third best round in the tournament's 43-year history, leads second place Wake Forest (E) by two strokes and third place Kansas (+1) by three strokes after 18 holes. Texas Tech (+5), Florida State (+5), North Carolina (+7), Kennesaw State (+9), ETSU (+10), Coastal Carolina (+10) and Yale (+10) rounded out the top 10 in the 18-team field.
Furman sophomore Taylor Totland (-2) and junior Valentina Romero (-2) each fired a 70, finishing the day tied for fourth at two under par to lead the Paladins. Totland posted a bogey-free round with birdies at No. 2 and No. 17, while Romero notched five birdies to shoot a 31 on the front nine. Freshman Alice Chen (E) carded a first round 72, Laura DeMarco (+2) shot a 74 and freshman Reona Hirai (+3) finished with a 75 to round the Paladins' lineup. Macy McRaney (+5) carded a 78 while playing as an individual.
"This group just continues to exceed my expectations," said Furman head coach Kelley Hester. "I thought we played pretty well the final round of our last tournament when we shot one-under, then we came out today ready to play and finished two-under. We made a lot of birdies on the front side and held strong on the back when the wind started to pick up. Overall, I'm very proud of them."
Kansas' Pornvipa Sadkee (-4) paced the field with an opening round 68, tying the Lady Paladin record for best opening round total, to grab a one-stroke lead over Wake Forest's Sierra Sims (-3) and Yale's Jennifer Peng (-3).
The teams at this year's tournament are participating in Birdies for Water to benefit Golf Fore Africa, a 501 (c)(3) founded in 2006 by Furman golf alumna and LPGA Hall of Famer Betsy King. To date GFA has raised over 2.5 million dollars to fund projects in Rwanda, Lesotho, Kenya, Mali, Niger, and Zambia. Currently Golf Fore Africa is raising two million dollars to bring clean water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education to over 100 villages in rural Zambia.
Teams are raising money by securing pledges for each birdie their team members record during the tournament. In Sunday's round, the Furman team raised $2,750, plus the Paladins secured flat donations of $2,580 entering the tournament.
The goal is to raise $15,000, which will bring clean water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education to one village. To sponsor the Furman women's golf team in this endeavor, e-mail Hester at Kelley.Hester@Furman.edu.
Second round play is set to tee off at 9 a.m. on Monday with final round play slated for Tuesday. Furman will tee off of No. 1 at 10:39 a.m. on Monday.
Admission to the tournament is free and fans are welcome. Results and live tournament scoring are available via www.FurmanPaladins.com and www.birdiefire.com.
Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information
1 Furman 286 -2
T4 Taylor Totland 70 -2
T4 Valentina Romero 70 -2
T12 Alice Chen 72 E
T24 Laura DeMarco 74 +2
T32 Reona Hirai 75 +3
T57 Macy McRaney* 78 +5
* - playing as an individual