Oklahoma, playing in gusty winds to which it is accustomed, took the lead after round one of the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship at Tulsa Country Club.
Led by a 2-under par round by freshman Alexandra Kaui of Honolulu, the seventh-ranked Sooners shot 8-over 288 and lead second-ranked UCLA by three shots.
Winds blew steady at 20 mph and frequently gusted up to 30 mph or more, leading to a struggle for top-ranked and defending champion USC, the heavy favorite which has won a school record nine tournaments in 2013-14. The Trojans shot 13-over 293 and finished strong to do so. The Trojans were 16 over at one point, but Doris Chen tied her career low round with a 3-under 67 to bring them back.
"We’re usually pretty good in the wind and we like conditions that allow you to separate yourself from the field," said USC coach Andrea Gaston. "Today wasn’t a steady wind, it was gusty and you could really be affected if it started blowing hard in your backswing.
"But we play early tomorrow and start on the back nine, which is easier. Hopefully we can go out and make a few early birdies and get things going in the right direction."
Chen is tied for the individual lead at 3-under with Tonje Daffinrud of Denver, playing as an individual, and with Lauren Kim of Stanford, who birdied three of the four par-3s. Kaui is fourth, followed by Alyssa Ferrell of Michigan State, Noemi Jimenez of Arizona State and Kaylin Yost of Campbell all at 1-under.
USC is tied for third with third-ranked Duke and fifth-ranked Arizona State, five shots off the pace. Eight shots back is California. Defending individual champion Annie Park of USC shot 75.
For the Sooners, Anne Tanquay shot even-par 70 and 2012 NCAA individual champion Chirapat Jao-Javanil shot 72. The team also had to count a 78.
UCLA was led by a 71 by Ai Gulugian and 72 from Louise Ridderstrom.
Kaui came into the sixth hole, her 15th, at 4-under, but her tee shot rode the winds right of the green into a pond, leading to double bogey. She bounced back on the par-4 eighth hole, hitting what she called her Hawaian Punch, a 3-wood from about 185 yards to 4-feet for birdie.
The Sooners struggled on the difficult closing holes, going from 1-under to 8-over in the final hour. The par-3 sixth hole was the most difficult on the course, with 36 bogeys, 21 double bogeys and 13 triple bogeys or worse against eight birdies. But there was also a hole-in-one recorded by Dana Finkelstein of UNLV.
"I hit a little baby 5-wood and knocked it down under the wind," Finkelstein said. "It took a couple of bounces on the green and disappeared."
"The last four holes are playing very tough," said OU coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell. "Everyone was giving shots back on that stretch. You’re just trying to make some pars at that point. But we’re happy to be where we’re at and looking forward to tomorrow."
The 72-hole tournament continues through Friday. There is no cut.