CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's golf team shot a school-record 292 to jump out to a one-shot lead at the 2013 Southland Conference Women's Golf Championship. Sophomore Vanessa Johnson matched the school record with a 3-under 69 to sit in second place at the event, while Nikki Dunn delivered an even-par 72 for the Islanders to sit in a tie for third.
Krista Fenniak posted a 74 of her own for the Islanders to put her in a tie for eighth through the opening round, while Taylor Slagle shot a 77. Lindsay Biehler posted an 83 for her first round of action.
"Everything really came together for us today," head coach Carol Blackmar said. "This was the most consistent we've played all year, and we reaped the benefits with a school record round. We've had to deal with so many travel and weather issues over the last couple of months, and we really took advantage of the best weather day we've had all spring.
"I'm so proud of the way we played today," she added. "That said, there is still a lot of golf to be played, and we need to have the same focus tomorrow and Wednesday that we did today. But if we keep it up, we can definitely win this tournament."
The Islanders are just one stroke ahead of Central Arkansas, which shot a 293 for the opening round. Sam Houston State, Oral Roberts and Lamar each posted a 299 to sit in a three-way tie for third. McNeese State (302) and Stephen F. Austin (309) round out the team scores.
Johnson was narrowly edged for the first-round lead by SHSU's Shelby Hardy, who was 3-under on the back nine, posting a birdie on the 18th to finish with a 68. Hardy and Johnson were the only two golfers under par for the day.
Johnson played a brilliant round, with just one bogey – a four on the par-3 14th. She started out quickly, going par-birdie-par-birdie on the first four holes, sitting minus-2 through the opening four holes. She followed that with four pars in a row, then delivered her third birdie of the day, posting a four on the par-5 ninth to sit 3-under heading to the turn. She started the back nine with four consecutive pars before her bogey on the 14th, but bounced back with a birdie four on the 15th, then finished with three straight pars to post a 69, matching her school record and personal best, set in the fall at the Harold Funston Invitational.
Dunn had a sterling day as well, mixing three birdies with three bogeys to deliver a 72 in the opening 18 holes. She opened with a birdie on the first, then followed with three consecutive pars. Bogeys on the fifth and the seventh set her back to plus-1, but she was able to get a stroke back before the turn with a birdie on nine. After pars on 10, 11 and 12, she notched a three on the par-4 13th to improve to 1-under, but a bogey on 16 left her at even-par in the opening round.
Fenniak posted her best round since October with a 74 in the opening 18 holes. She got off to a tough start with a double bogey on the fourth and a bogey on the seventh to sit at 3-over. But she rallied with birdies on eight and nine to sit plus-1 heading to the turn. After pars on 10 and 11, she went bogey-birdie-bogey to fall back to 2-over, but closed with four pars in a row to finish at plus-2.
Slagle had a solid front nine, delivering eight pars, with her only blemish a double bogey on the fourth. After the turn, she ran into some trouble, with a bogey on 10 and a double on 11 to fall to plus-5. But the senior rallied, posting three straight pars before her lone birdie of the day, a four on the par-5 15th. A bogey on 16 pushed her to plus-5, but she finished with pars on the last two holes to enter the clubhouse with a 77.
Biehler posted bogey on three of the first four holes to sit at plus-3 early on. She bounced back with three straight pars, but a bogey on eight was followed by a double on nine to send her to the turn 6-over. On the back, she posted three bogeys, and a triple on 13 sent her to the final hole at plus-12. She ended her round on a positive note, though, notching a birdie on 18 to finish with an 83.
The Islanders will tee off tomorrow alongside UCA and ORU in the second round on Tuesday. Biehler will be the first to go off at 9:20 a.m., and she will be followed by Slagle (9:28), Fenniak (9:36), Dunn (9:44) and Johnson (9:52). Live updates will be available on GolfStat.com and on Twitter (@IslandersGolf).