Alabama grabs two-shot lead over Virginia at women’s NCAA finals

Brooke Pancake
University of Alabama
The Crimson Tide, ranked second nationally, finished with a 2-under 286 led by a 4-under 68 from senior Brooke Pancake.
By
Teresa Walker
Associated Press

Series: Other Tour

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | 1:00 a.m.

FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Alabama finished the opening round by grabbing a two-stroke lead over Virginia, and Portland Rosen shot a Cavaliers' school-record 6-under 66 in near perfect conditions in the morning to lead the individual standings Tuesday at the NCAA Division I women's golf championship.

The Crimson Tide, ranked second nationally by GolfStat, finished with a 2-under 286 led by a 4-under 68 by senior Brooke Pancake. But Alabama only finished with the lead after Elizabeth Brightwell of Virginia was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard about three hours after finishing her round. She signed for a 71 instead of a 72, putting down a 4 on the par-4 fourth instead of a 5.

WOMEN'S FINALS

For complete coverage of the NCAA Division I Women's Finals, go to NCAA.com.

''I feel bad for her, I feel bad for them a great group of kids and coaches,'' said Alabama Coach Mick Potter.

''As a coach, it just scares me to death whenever they walk out of that tent. So you know in a regular season tournament you can kind of handle it here," he explained. "Out here, it's just so important and they just have to be careful. We talk to them about it all the time, and hopefully everybody else learns from that mistake and just a little bit more attentive to what they're doing when they walk out of there.''

That turned Virginia's 6-under 282 total with a four-stroke lead at the time over LSU to even par 288 when Brightwell's 72 was dropped for Briana Mao's 77.

The 288 still is a school best for Virginia in the Cavaliers' sixth NCAA championship in the program's nine years. Brightwell was alerted to the possible miscue as the team was preparing to leave the course and found it when re-checking her score.

''I feel bad for Elizabeth,'' Virginia Coach Kim Lewellen said through a team spokesman. ''I feel bad for our team. But we've just got to go out and play.''

Duke was third after a 1-over 289 followed by North Carolina (290). Defending champ UCLA shot a 4-under 292, and host Vanderbilt struggled on its own course with a 306 that tied the Commodores for 22nd.

Rosen's career-low round gave her the lead by a stroke over Laura Gonzalez of Purdue (67). Catherine O'Donnell of North Carolina and Pancake tied for third after shooting 68s. Lindy Duncan of Duke, the nation's top-ranked golfer, was tied for ninth with a 70.

A year ago, Brittany Altomare of Virginia held the individual lead after the first round. Rosen is Virginia's fifth-seeded golfer, finished 101st at the Central Regional at Ohio State and had shot under par only once in 24 rounds this year coming to the Vanderbilt Legends Club. She gave the Cavaliers a strong start by setting the course record with a 7-under 29 on the front nine on her way to her career-low round.

''I did have a rough regional, but we worked really hard last week and I changed putters, which really helped,'' Rosen said. ''I just thought, 'Just have some fun, Portland. It's your last tournament of the year. You only do this once in your life. You're only in college once in your life.'''

Rosen started on the par-4 No. 1 and holed out a 5-iron from 171 yards for an eagle, putting Virginia on the top of the leaderboard as the first golfer off the No. 1 tee. That had her father, Houston attorney Rocket Rosen, jumping and yelling that the ball found the cup.

''But he always says that, and I didn't believe him,'' Rosen said of her father. ''Then I heard another person say it's in. It's a good way to start the day. Very exciting.''

Rosen set the North Course record by making the turn with a 7-under 29, had two bogeys on the back nine before finishing with a birdie on the par-5 No. 18. The sophomore from Sugar Land, Texas, hit her irons well, but the switch in putters proved to be key. Her coach suggested trying an Odyssey belly putter the golfer looked at a month ago.

With the putter nicknamed ''Batman'' because of the head's similarity to the comic book hero symbol, Rosen had no trouble with her hands being too fast in rolling putt after putt Tuesday.

''And it worked today like a superhero,'' Lewellen said.

Thanks to Rosen, it looked as if Virginia might stay atop the leaderboard until Alabama closed strong, taking advantage of the easier front nine. The Crimson Tide started on No. 10, and Potter said he knew they would have birdie chances on the final holes if they stayed patient. It helps that Pancake, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., learned to play golf at Tennessee's youth golf training course and knows the Legends Course very well.

With Alabama junior Jennifer Kirby getting a birdie on No. 7, Pancake birdied the 455-yard par-5 No. 9 with the Tide playing in the final five groups. Hannah Collier followed with her own birdie, and Stephanie Meadow capped the run with her own birdie.

''As far as the leaderboard goes, it wouldn't have bothered me either way,'' Potter said. ''I think we have to take care of our business and not worry about it.''