University of Arkansas junior Emma Lavy fired a career-best 68 on Friday to lead the eighth-ranked Razorbacks women's golf team to the top of the leaderboard after first-round action at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island.
Lavy and the Razorbacks opened on the back side of the course, and the Fayetteville, Ark., native came out of the gates strong.
She recovered from a bogey on her second hole to finish with four birdies, including three in a row on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 to turn at 3 under. Lavy played the front nine even, leading the Razorbacks to a 293 and a two-shot lead over the field.
"Emma was just super solid," Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said. "She had 24 putts today and hit some great golf shots. I just can't say enough about the way she was playing.
"We started on the hardest part of the golf course. It was about 45 degrees and blowing before the sun finally came out. We got through the hard part pretty much unscathed and then just finished strong."
Holding a three-stroke lead, Lavy has a friend at the top. Freshman teammate Gabriela Lopez is tied for second overall with a first-round 71. Also tied at 71 are North Carolina's Casey Grice and LSU's Madalene Sagstrom.
Third-ranked North Carolina is second at 295 and is tied with No. 35 LSU. No. 11 Vanderbilt is fourth at 296 followed by No. 4 Alabama, No. 29 Tennessee and No. 17 Arizona State in a three-way tie for fifth at 297.
Host South Carolina posted a 314 and is in 14th place with two rounds left to play.
The Gamecocks were the first team to tee off and had to battle through the roughest conditions of the day with high winds.
"These are the days in golf that make us hungry to redeem ourselves," South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said. "I believe this group will be resilient."
Junior Suzie Lee carded the low round of the day for the Gamecocks, shooting a 4-over-par 75. She finished the day in a tie for 27th, recording one birdie, five bogeys and 12 pars.
Defending champion Stephanie Meadow, a graduate of the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, was Alabama's drop score with a 6-over-par 77, struggling on the back nine with four bogeys and a double.
Lavy and the Razorbacks will try to stay on top when play continues Saturday with Round 2 beginning at 8 a.m.
"We talk a lot about using the first round to put ourselves in great position to win the tournament, and we did that today," Estes-Taylor said. "We still have a lot of golf left to play and we have to stay in every golf shot and commit to the process. This course is demanding and we have to stay focused for the next two rounds."
Darius Rucker Intercollegiate
Long Cove Club, Hilton Head Island
1. Arkansas 293, T2. Louisiana State 295, T2. North Carolina 295, 4. Vanderbilt 296, T5. Alabama 297, T5. Arizona State 297, T5. Tennessee 297, 8. Central Florida 298, 9. Virginia 301, 10., Wake Forest 304, 11. Georgia 308, 12. TCU 311, 13. Furman 313, 14. South Carolina 314, 15. Auburn 315.
Individual Top 10
1. Emma Lavy, Arkansas 68
T2. Madelene Sagstrom, LSU 71
T2. Casey Grice, UNC 71
T2. Gaby Lopez, Arkansas 71
T5. Brittany Altomare, Virginia 72
T5. Mariana Sims, Wake Forest 72
T5. Noemi Jimenez, Arizona St. 72
T8. Lauren Stratton, Vanderbilt 73
T8. Alexandra Bonetti, TCU 73
T8. Daeun Song, Tennessee 73
T8. Paola Robles, UCF 73
T8. Daniela Lendl, Alabama 73
T8. Kendall Martindale, Vanderbilt 73
T8. Elizabeth Mallett, UNC 73
T8. Laura Wearn, Furman 73
T8. Dani Ordonez, Arizona St. 73
T8. Manuela Carbajo Re, Georgia 73