CONOVER, N.C. – Tina Yang was disappointed the rest of her California Baptist University teammates would not be accompanying her to the NCAA Division II Championships. Yang used the opportunity to represent the Lancers well, however, as she stands as the overall leader through one round of the championship.
After a pair of sixth-place finishes at the PacWest and Division II Super West Regional, Yang has her eye on more. She carded a one-under-par 70 at the Rock Barn Golf & Spa Wednesday to lead the field of 72 individuals at the championship tournament hosted by Lenoir-Rhyne.
It was Yang’s putter and irons that led to her posting the only under-par round on the first of the four-round, 72-hole tournament.
“Tina played great today,” head coach John Hackney said, “she literally had one bad shot all day today and she putted like a [Ladies Professional Golf Association] player out there.
"Our concentration today was speed on the greens and her gauge was exceptional. She had complete control of the ball with her putter.”
It was one of those rare displays of brilliance, said Hackney, who has more than 16 years of experience coaching at the collegiate level.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had watching one of my college golfers play,” Hackney said. “I’d say it’s the best round I’ve seen from one of my female golfers ever.”
Yang hit 13 fairways and 12 of 18 greens on the day, while finishing off half of the holes with one putts and recording six birdies. She played the front nine one under after birdies at holes No. 1 and 9 and a bogey at five.
The back nine started out as a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Yang, who never lost her composure to finish her round in strong form. A birdie at 10 appeared to give her a strong start on the back before she carded a double bogey at 11 to put her even on the day. Unfazed, Yang responded with a par and pair of birdies at 12, 13 and 14, respectively, to move back to two-under.
Another double at 15 put her on level footing again before a birdie at 16 put her back under par, which is where she finished the day after she closed it out with two pars.
Both doubles came with a bit of bad luck. The double at 11 came due to the hilly golf course, as she laid up her approach shot right at the pin, saw it bounce and then watched it roll down the hill and off the green. She chumped her chip back onto the green, as it rolled just about five feet for what Hackney called “her one bad shot of the day.” Yang responded with a key putt to limit the damage with a double.
On 15, Yang got a ball stuck in a divot and had her ensuing shot go in the water. Still, she had no problem coming back from a tough bounce or two Wednesday.
“Whenever she made a double she would come right back with a birdie or two,” Hackney said. “Her bounce back was awesome. She’s confident, she’s played in a number of big tournaments and she knows there’s no pressure, it’s just her and the golf course.”
Yang also got a little help in leading the field, as she sat in second when she came off the course after Rollins’ Halley Leadbetter was four-under par with three holes to go. Leadbetter stumbled on her way back into the clubhouse to finish even 71 to end the round.
There is a six-way tie for third place, with Lynn’s Jessica Bradley and Louise Manalo, St. Leo’s Marie Coors, Haley Haught of St. Edward’s and Michelle Schambs and Bethany Darrough of Findlay and Central Oklahoma sitting all turning in one-over 72s Wednesday.
“It was a good start, it’s what we wanted," Hackney said. "She just had one of those days. You’re not going to have one of those days all the time, but she executed our game plan coming into today."
With rain in Conover's Thursday weather forecast, Yang is scheduled to tee off with the leaders in the last grouping at 10:20 a.m. EDT.