ATHENS, Ga. — Led by a pair of 3-under 69s from Jenny Bae and LoraLie Cowart, the Georgia women’s golf team fired its best-ever NCAA Championships round on Monday to grab the early lead at the NCAA Athens Regional. The Bulldogs shot 9-under 279 as a team to build a nine-shot edge over the field.
“You couldn’t dream of a better start,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “It is 54 holes. I know people will see the leaderboards and see where we are at. I wouldn’t trade with anybody. Now we have the challenge of staying focused for two more days.”
The 9-under effort bettered Georgia’s previous best round in NCAA competition of 7-under 2003 in the final round of the 2003 NCAA East Regional.
All five Bulldogs are among the top-12 on the individual leaderboard. In addition to Bae and Cowart, who are tied for second, Candice Mahé is tied for fourth, Isabella Holpfer is tied for ninth and Jo Hua Hung is tied for 12th.
Both Bae and Cowart mixed four birdies and one bogey with 14 pars en route to their rounds in the 60s.
For Bae, it was her 21st par-or-better effort this season, moving her within one of the school record set by Bailey Tardy in 2015-16 and Marta Silva Zamora in 2010-11.
“I think everything just clicked, especially my putting,” Bae said. “When I had it going up and down, my putting saved me. When I had a long birdie or short birdie, it would also go in. Overall, I think it was such a great day, and I hope the momentum carries on into the next.”
Cowart’s round was her best as a Bulldog, eclipsing a 2-under 70 in the final round of the 2021 Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic at the UGA course.
“It was good day today,” Cowart said. “It was actually really fun. Josh (Brewer) came up to me at one point and said, ‘just stay patient out there.’ I was like, ‘I am fine. I amactually having a lot of fun.’ I thought I hit the ball well, drove the ball well and putted extremely well. Overall, it was just a great day.”
Georgia is searching for its first win of the 2022-23 season. Equally important, the Bulldogs need to finish fifth or better to advance to next week’s NCAA Championships. After 18 holes, Georgia is 18 shots ahead of the sixth-place teams.
“We haven’t won this year,” Brewer said. “We want to go out and show that we are one of the best teams in the country. We weren’t a fluke last year just making match play. We are going to stay as aggressive as we can and play the way we have all year on our home golf course.”
Georgia leads Ohio State by nine strokes. Rounding out the top-10 teams on the leaderboard are South Carolina at 289, San Jose State and Maryland at 295, Furman and Ole Miss at 297, Kansas and Kent State at 300 and Augusta at 301.
Furman’s Anna Morgan birdied her final hole, No. 9, to move to 4-under on the day and alone atop the individual field.
Georgia will be paired with Ohio State and South Carolina for Tuesday’s second round. The Bulldogs, Buckeyes and Gamecocks will tee off from No. 1 in 11-minute increments from 9:09-9:53 a.m. Live scoring is available at www.golfstat.com.