NINETY-SIX, S.C. – Charleston Southern senior Shelby Thompson carded a three-under par 69 on Monday to tie for the round one individual lead at the 2017 Big South Championship. CSU is in second place as a team, seven strokes behind top-seeded Campbell, through 18 holes at The Patriot at Grand Harbor.
Thompson birdied three of her final five holes to match the second-lowest score in the event's history. She dropped in back-to-back birdies at the par-four 14th and par-three 15th before finishing with a flurry thanks to another at the par-five 18th. Thompson is tied with Campbell's Desiree Andersson, who highlighted her round with four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine. Presbyterian's Celia Mansour, at -1, is the only other player in red numbers.
CSU recorded an eight-over par 296 as a team, aided by steady +2 rounds from junior Hayley McNeill (T-7th) and senior Hannah Barger (T-7th). Milleina Ohara (T-29th) contributed the Bucs' other counted score with a 79. Campbell, the defending champion, is atop the field at +1 behind a balanced effort. Four Fighting Camels' are tied for seventh or better.
CSU head coach Matt Cram-Smith entered confident his club would contend for the title. He likes their position with still 36 holes remaining.
"It's good to be in second knowing that we were far from our best out there today," Cram-Smith said. "Shelby played great golf, which was nice and gave us a lift. Hayley and Hannah played solidly. We left a few out there from pretty much everyone so tomorrow I'm sure we'll sharpen up and eliminate some mistakes to improve on today."
CSU is two shots ahead of third-place Gardner-Webb and six in front of fourth-place Winthrop. Presbyterian (+15) and High Point (+16) are also within striking distance heading into Tuesday's second round.
"The girls will come out confident tomorrow, for sure," Cram-Smith said. "This course sets up really well for them. If we can get some momentum early and keep it going, we will be in good shape."
Thompson did not start hot on Monday, bogeying two of her first four holes, but was superb the rest of the way. She notched her first birdie of the day at the par-four 6th and took the turn with momentum after birdies at eight and nine, with the latter sending her out in one-under 35. Thompson gave a shot back at No. 11 but rallied with three birdies down the stretch. Andersson, meanwhile, bogeyed the closing hole to enable Thompson to pull even atop the 45-player leaderboard.
McNeill continued the steady play she has demonstrated throughout the campaign. She tallied her only birdie of the day at the par-four fourth but played clean golf en route to a 74.
Barger started her day with a birdie and rose near the top of the leaderboard with another at No. 6. She did not record another birdie after that but did settle down with five consecutive pars to end her round.
Ohara rebounded from a rocky start – +5 through four holes – to play her final 14 holes in two-over par. The junior posted birdies at No. 8 and 10, and parred six of her final seven holes.
Bella Johnson-Schmitz, who had played well in the events leading up to the conference championship, struggled to an 82 on Monday. She wrapped up her day with a birdie at the lengthy par-five 18th and will look to bounce back Tuesday.
CSU will tee off its second round Tuesday between 9:40 and 10:20 a.m. The Bucs will play alongside first-place Campbell and third-place Gardner-Webb.