Anna Leigh Keith had four birdies in the final five holes Tuesday on her way to a career-best round of 71 (1-under) and helped Vanderbilt’s women’s golf team finish tied for 12th place after the first round of the NCAA championship.
The Commodores’ total of 296 (8-over) was 14 shots off the pace set by Southern California and was third-best among Southeastern Conference teams. Alabama was tied for sixth at 289 and Auburn was ninth at 293.
VU was tied for 12th following the first round of the NCAA East Regional (a 54-hole event) but eventually finished fifth and earned its way into the NCAA tournament field, which consists of 24 teams.
“We were the first team off and shot eight over, not great, not terrible,” coach Greg Allen said. “We didn’t shoot ourselves out of it, but we didn’t need a team to go low. Then again, there’s still 54 holes to play, which is an entire tournament for us, so there is a lot of golf left.”
Keith, a freshman, was one of sixth players tied for 14th among individuals. She had just one birdie along with two bogeys and a double bogey through 13 holes before she roared to the finish. She made three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 (two par-4s and a par-3) and following a par on No. 17 added another birdie on the par-5 finishing hole.
“I started making some putts, and not hitting crazy shots,” Keith said. “It was fun. I got it going.”
VU’s other four players combined for just three birdies on the back nine.
Megan Grehan was 2-under through seven after a string of three birdies in four holes. She didn’t make another and finished second among the Commodores at 74 (2-over). Marina Alex, an individual qualifier last year and the 2010 SEC individual medalist, opened the back nine with four straight bogeys and finished with a 75 (3-over). Brooke Goodwin, who had an eagle on the par-5 sixth, completed the scoring with a 76 (4-over).
“It was a really solid round for Anna Leigh,” Allen said. “She rallied, like this team has done, (and) I believe they will do again later this week. I’m really proud of her.”