STILLWATER, Okla. – Junior Cheyenne Knight shot a 4-under par 32 on the back nine to rally the Alabama women’s golf team to a 2-under par round and sole possession of second place at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships on Saturday.
The No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide (292-286/578) is 2-over par for the tournament and trails No. 3 UCLA (294-279/573) by five shots. The Bruins shot a course record 9-under par 279 on Saturday and are in the lead at 3-under par heading into Sunday’s third round at the par-72, 6,328-yard Karsten Creek Golf Club.
“It was a little bit of a rough start for us,” Alabama head coach Mic Potter said. “We were three or four over at one point early, but we were playing the front a lot better than yesterday so we’re thinking if we can get to the back, we can make something happen.”
The two teams posted the only under-par rounds on Saturday and both surpassed the previous women’s collegiate course record of 287, set by UCLA in 2014. The Tide’s 286 also equals the fourth-lowest round all-time by Alabama in NCAA Championships play.
First round leader USC (291-298/589) fell to third place after a 10-over par round dropped the sixth-ranked Trojans to 13-over. No. 9 Arizona (302-291/592) and No. 13 Northwestern (299-293/592) are tied for fourth at +16.
All five teams were among the morning group that finished their day prior to a nearly 90-minute weather delay that stopped play shortly before 4:30 p.m. for the 12 teams playing the afternoon tee times. Play resumed at 6 p.m. and the afternoon groups were able to complete their rounds early Saturday evening.
Knight (70-69/139) is now 5-under par for the tournament and tied for the lead in the individual standings with first round leader Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest and Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan. The Aledo, Texas, native started slowly on Saturday and was at 2-over par for the round after back-to-back bogeys on No. 9 and No. 10. She then birdied five of the remaining eight holes to finish the day at -3.
“I’ve been driving it well all week,” Knight said. “Just having that confidence and knowing exactly where I’m going to hit it is one of my strengths.” But the last few tournaments that’s been a little off. I really worked hard on it last week and it feels really natural right now.”
Alabama also received another strong outing from junior Lauren Stephenson (74-69/143) as she matched Knight with a 3-under par day of her own and is now -1 for the tournament and tied for eighth. The Lexington, S.C., native’s performance was her 19th round in the 60s and 25th round at par or better in 31 rounds played this season.
“Today was huge by Lauren,” Potter said. “That’s the way she plays all the time. You can kind of count on her shooting two or three under par every day for us.”
Sophomore Kristen Gillman (73-72/145) turned in an even-par round that included birdies on three of her final five holes and is tied for 13th at +1. Freshman Angelica Moresco (75-76/151) was 4-over par on Saturday, good for a tie for 54th at +7. Senior Lakareber Abe (76-81/157) is in 98th place at +13.
Ole Miss shot a second-round 303 to hold 23rd place in the team standings.
Alabama will open today’s third round starting at 7:30 a.m. and will be paired with UCLA and USC. Following the conclusion of the third round, the field will be cut to 15 teams for the fourth round of stroke play on Monday. The top eight teams at the end of Monday’s round will advance to Tuesday’s match play quarterfinals.
On Friday, Kie Purdom led the Ole Miss women’s golf team with a strong 3-over (75) performance in the program’s first round ever at the NCAA Championships.
It was a tough day overall for the Rebels, who sat in 24th at the incredibly challenging Karsten Creek Golf Club.
“This course is tough. It can beat you up really quickly,” said head coach Kory Henkes. “We try to keep perspective that there’s 24 teams here, and I know we didn’t play our best today, but they have to keep their heads up.”
Purdom overcame a triple-bogey on her first hole of the day after her opening tee shot found the woods on No. 1. She picked up a birdie on No. 3, one of two on the day for the junior out of Lexington, Kentucky.
Katy Harris had a fantastic front nine, tallying three straight birdies on No. 5, 6 and 7. She encountered some trouble on the back but capped her day with a birdie on No. 18 to finish at 8-over. Julia Johnson also birdied No. 18 to come into the clubhouse at 10-over. Pi-Lillebi Hermansson turned in the fourth counting score thanks to a solid 3-over back nine.
The difficult course setup has been a challenge for nearly the entire field as five of the top-10 ranked teams in the nation finished 20 or more over par.
–From Special Reports
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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