TEMPE, AZ -- Sophomore Stephanie Smith opened with a three-under-par 69 on Thursday to lead Texas A&M into a tie for second place after the first round of the NCAA Women's Golf West Regional at Arizona State's Karsten Golf Course.
Smith's round, along with the Aggies' team score of even-par 288, tied school records for postseason play.
Top-ranked Arizona State blistered its home course with a 15-under 273 to take a 15-stroke lead over A&M, No. 20 Arizona and Texas going into Friday's second round. The tournament concludes on Saturday. Live scoring is available at www.golfstat.com.
"The girls were really excited and confident coming in because they knew they could play well here," A&M Coach Trelle McCombs said. "But they weren't over-hyped; they just went out and executed the shots they needed to execute. They played really well today although they still felt like they left some shots out there. We need to go out tomorrow and put up another good number on the board and see where that puts us."
The top eight teams and two individuals from each of the three regionals will advance to the championship finals May 19-22 at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md.
No. 3 Southern California, No. 15 Arkansas, TCU and UC Irvine are tied for fifth at 289, followed by No. 23 California (291), No. 13 Pepperdine (294), San Francisco (294), No. 10 LSU (295), No. 18 San Jose State (299), UNLV (299, Northern Arizona (299), Long Beach State (299), Oregon (299), Baylor (299), Colorado (309), Oral Roberts (312) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (315).
Southern California's Belen Mozo is the individual leader with a six-under 66. Smith is tied for sixth.
A&M senior Lauren Johnson shot a one-under 71 (tied for 13th), junior Ashley Freeman had an even-par 72 (tied for 17th), sophomore Sarah Zwartynski carded a four-over 76 (tied for 67th) and sophomore Alexa Porter posted a seven-over 79 (tied for 90th).
Smith's previous best this season was a two-over 74 on the same course at the PING/ASU Invitational in early April. Her previous career best was a 72 as a freshman last year at Texas Tech. Smith was three-under through seven holes then parred out to complete a bogey-free round.
"Stephanie made some great up-and-downs early and that gave her a lot of confidence," McCombs said. "I was as impressed with her play on the back nine as I was on the front. She was two-under through 16 on this course last month and shot a 74, so she knew she could play well here. She played an awesome round of golf."
Johnson was one-over on the front nine, but shot two-under on the back after posting four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Freeman had 16 pars and a birdie with just one bogey.