BRYAN, Texas -- The 19th-ranked Furman women's golf team scored ten birdies on the back nine to overcome a mid-round deficit and tie for third in the opening round of the NCAA Bryan Regional in Bryan, Texas, on Thursday at the par-72, 6,373 yard Traditions Golf Course.
The Paladins (E) placed three players among the top 20, including rookie Haylee Harford (-1), the 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year, who notched three consecutive birdies on No. 5, 6, and 7, to conclude the round tied for 14th with a one-under 71. Harford enters Friday's second round four strokes back of Gonzaga's Bianca Pagdanganan (-5) who leads the field after firing an opening-round 67.
Sophomore Jacqueline Bendrick (E) shot an even 72 with four birdies to tie for 20th with sophomore Alice Chen (E), the 2016 SoCon Co-Player of the Year, who added six birdies, including five in the last seven holes, to post a 4-under on the back nine. Junior Taylor Totland (+1) birdied No. 13 and No. 18 to tie for 28th with a 1-over 73, while senior Valentina Romero (+6) is tied for 70th at 78 following one round of play.
Sixth-ranked Georgia (-3) and 11th-ranked Arizona (-3) lead the field after each scored an opening round 285. Furman and Campbell (E) are tied for third, while third-ranked UCLA (+1) completes the top five.
"We got off to a good start today then had some adversity midway through the round," said Furman head coach Kelley Hester, the 2016 SoCon Coach of the Year, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the Paladin program. "I am really proud of the way the girls fought back. At one point we were 8-over, but we really battled back and made 10 birdies to finish even par."
The Paladins, who will tee off of No. 1 at 9:50 a.m. on Friday, are part of an 18-team regional field that is battling for a top six finish and a berth in the 24-team NCAA Championship which is set to be held May 20-25 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore. The Bryan Regional field includes six of the top 25 teams in the country led by third-ranked UCLA, No. 6 Georgia, No. 11 Arizona, No. 14 Kent State, No. 19 Furman, and No. 23 Texas A&M.
Furman, who secured the Southern Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by capturing its 15th SoCon Championship last month at Savannah Quarters Golf Club in Savannah, Ga., is making its second-consecutive and 19th overall NCAA Regional appearance. The Paladins appeared in 17-straight regionals from 1993, when the regional format began, until 2010. Furman tied for 10th at last season's NCAA East Regional in Raleigh.
The Paladins last reached the NCAA Championship in 2008, when Furman claimed an eighth place finish at the NCAA East Regional in Athens, Ga., to advance to the NCAA Championship in Albuquerque, N.M.
Live scoring of the NCAA Bryan Regional is available at www.golfstat.com or by logging onto www.furmanpaladins.com.
Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information
T3 Furman 288 E
T14 Haylee Harford 71 -1
T20 Alice Chen 72 E
T20 Jacqueline Bendrick 72 E
T28 Taylor Totland 73 +1
T70 Valentina Romero 78 +6