ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- Texas A&M sophomore Ashley Freeman had rare back-to-back eagles en route to a one-under-par 71 on Tuesday to lead the Aggies into eighth place after the opening round of the NCAA Women's Golf Championship.
No. 16-ranked A&M carded a team score of seven-over 295 at the University of New Mexico's Championship Golf Course, the best opening round at the national tournament in school history. The Aggies trail leader Southern California (284) by 11 strokes going into Tuesday's second round. The tournament continues through Friday.
A&M freshman Sarah Zwartynski added an even-par 72, sophomore Danielle McVeigh had a 73, junior Lauren Johnson carded a 79 and senior Miranda Orr shot an 85.
Freeman’s round matched her career best set in the final round of the NCAA Central Regional two weeks ago in Austin. She tied for ninth individually and trails leader Nanette Hill of Wake Forest (67) by four shots.
She was two-over through four holes before posting the consecutive eagles. On the par-5 5th, her 100-yard pitching wedge struck the pin and dropped straight into the hole. On the par-4 6th, she hit a soft 9-iron from 116-yards that landed on the front of the sloped green and trickled 20 feet before dropping into the hole.
"I was below the hole and didn't get to see the one on No. 5 go in," Freeman said. "It was a little bit lucky because I hit it a little thin. It really didn't even click in my brain that it was an eagle until someone told me. I hit the one on No. 6 perfect. It looked like a putt as it was rolling toward the hole. It was a lot of fun for sure. After that, I felt in control the rest of the round."
Freeman played the next eight holes in three-over before posting consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th to get back to over-under. She chipped in from off the green for the birdie on 16 and finished the day with just 25 putts, despite a pair of three-putts.
"It was a good day in terms of trying not to putt," she said.
Freeman has had two straight sub-par rounds since a second-round 84 at the regional, after which she had a constructive conversation with first-year Coach Trelle McCombs.
"She just told me to play within myself and go out and have fun," Freeman said. "Before that, I was kind of like a rollercoaster and now when I miss a shot I stay more even keel."
"Ashley is the type of kid that wants everything to be just right," McCombs said. "We just talked about her being human. She is her own toughest critic and is starting to see if she's her own best friend, things can go the right way. She's really believing in what she's doing and it's fun to watch her play. I’ve been around golf a long time and I’ve never heard of back-to-back eagles."
Zwartynski was two-over through five holes, but played the last 13 holes in two-under. McVeigh had 17 pars and recorded her lone bogey on the par-3 17th.
"I felt like if we would quiver a little it would be today but we played very solidly," McCombs said. "It’s a tribute to the players playing as loose as possible and just playing golf. We’ve tried to play with that attitude all year and we’re finally letting it go. I feel like we’ve put ourselves in good position and we have a great opportunity to move up tomorrow."
UCLA and Auburn are tied for second at 289, followed by Arizona State (290), Denver (293), Wake Forest (293), Oklahoma State (294), A&M (295), Virginia (296), Alabama (296), Georgia (297), Tulsa (297), TCU (298), Texas (298), UC Davis (298), Arkansas (298), Purdue (298), Duke (299), LSU (300), Florida (301), South Carolina (306), Arizona (307), Furman (312) and UNLV (314).