Balanced Wildcats jump to nine-stroke lead

AUBURN, Wash. -- The University of Arizona Wildcats, helped by three
strong individual scores, took a commanding lead Tuesday in the
first round of the NCAA Division I women's golf tournament.

Duke sophomore Virada Nirapathpongporn shot a bogey-free,
4-under-par 68 to take the individual lead. Georgia junior Summer
Sirmons was one shot back at 69, while seven players were tied at

The Wildcats, from the Pacific-10 Conference, had a team score of 285, nine
strokes better than Duke and Georgia, whose four-person teams each shot
294. Five teams, including pre-tournament favorite Auburn, were at
298 over the par-72, 6,273-yard Washington
National Golf Club.

Three Wildcats cracked the top 10, led by junior Laura
Myerscough, who shot a 70. Sophomores Mar Garcia and Lorena Ochoa
each had 71s. Senior Cristina Baena carded a 73 for Arizona.

Ochoa was the pre-tournament favorite and is expected to turn
pro Saturday. She has won an NCAA-record eight tournaments this
year and has three top-10 finishes competing on the LPGA tour as an
amateur. Ochoa had four birdies and three bogeys.

Nirapathpongporn, from Bangkok, Thailand, has played golf since
she was 10. She moved to the United States when she was 15.

She had four birdies in her first round. All of her birdie putts
were from 8 feet or less.

The winner last year, Duke senior Candy Hannemman, shot a 75.
Hannemman was even through 15 holes, but hit right into a creek on
the par-3 16th. After getting to the green, she missed her putt and
finished with a five on the hole. Hannemman hit her ensuing drive
into the water again on No. 17 and ended up with a bogey.