Sara Monberg tees off during Wednesday's practice round.
May 6, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Senior golfer Diana Cantú knows this weekend's NCAA East Regional could be her final collegiate tournament. She's doing everything in her power to make sure it's not, though.
The Monterrey, Mexico, native opened the competition with a career-best-tying 3-under 69 on Thursday at the Ironwood Country Club to lead the 15th-ranked Tennessee women's golf team to a tied-for-third placement on day one of the tournament.
"I'm very happy with our performance," Cantú said. "We needed a good start as a team and we got one. We just need to focus on one day at a time. It was a really good round for me. I hit great and putted great. It was really exciting. I just focused on each shot, one at a time."
Freshman Sara Monberg added a career-best 2-under 70, while fellow frosh Erica Popson and sophomore Nathalie Mansson tallied even-par 72s to give UT a 5-under 283 team total. That score tied Tennessee's season-best and ranks as the fifth-lowest score ever recorded by the Lady Vols.
UT is tied for third with South Carolina, two strokes behind No. 9/11 Pepperdine (281) and three strokes away from day one leader No. 4/5 Auburn (280). The top eight finishers in the 24-team field advance to the NCAA Championships from May 18-21 in Wilmington, N.C.
The Lady Vols will start round two from the first tee at 1:26 p.m. on Friday in a group with Pepperdine and No. 15/20 Vanderbilt (292). Golfstat.com will have live results and www.twitter.com/utladyvolswill provide updates.
"The course is set up really fair," Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. "The greens are nice and the pin placements are generous. There were bound to be low scores today. Physically our games are more than good enough to advance to the NCAA Championships. If we lose it mentally that's where we could run into trouble. They were mentally tough today, and they did a really great job out there on the course."
On a clear and sunny day with temperatures in the mid-80s, Cantú and her fellow Lady Vols were able to torch the par-72, 6,321-yard Ironwood course with nine birdies and just four bogeys among their top four to tie its season-best team score set during the first round of the Mercedes-Benz Women's Collegiate Championships in October. Tennessee went on to win that tournament, it's home competition, by 19 strokes.
UT won't need a similar dominant performance this week, however. The Big Orange just needs to finish in the top-eight to secure a return trip to North Carolina later this month. UT is seeking its sixth NCAA Championships appearance in seven years and a second straight invite.
For Cantú, an All-SEC Second Team pick this season, it was the third time this season she's turned in a 69, and the fifth time of her career. She began the day with a bogey on the par-4, 370-yard 10th hole, but didn't slip the rest of the way, nabbing a pair of birdies on both the front and back nines to head into day two in a tie for sixth.
Monberg started her day with a birdie on No. 10 and was even at the turn before adding two more birdies on the front to finish with her collegiate-best 2-under 70 and in a tie for 10th.
Mansson's even total was her 14th par or better round of the season, the second-best single-season total in UT history and just two rounds away from the Lady Vol record. She made par on her final 12 holes Thursday and will head into the second round in a tie for 30th along with Popson.
Popson continued her momentum from the SEC Championship, where she tied for first before earning runner-up honors in a playoff, by recording only one bogey en route to a third consecutive round of par or better.
Rounding out Tennessee's lineup on day one was junior Lauren Spurlock. Playing in her seventh tournament of the season, she posted a 76 and is tied for 81st.
|LADY VOL SCORES|
|t6.||Diana Cantú||69 (-3)|
|t10.||Sara Monberg||70 (-2)|
|t30.||Nathalie Mansson||72 (E)|
|t30.||Erica Popson||72 (E)|
|t81.||Lauren Spurlock||76 (+4)|