By JORDAN FREEMYER
ERIE, Colo. – The Northern Colorado women's golf team shot a 23-over par 311 Thursday and is in 21st place after the first round of the 2012 NCAA West Regional at Colorado National Golf Club.
Stanford holds the team lead after shooting a 1-under 287 on the tournament's first day.
"I'm proud of the way our girls played today in their first regional round ever," Northern Colorado head coach Brandon White said. "I know everyone had a little nerves going on the first tee."
The top eight teams and top two individuals qualify for the NCAA Championships later this month in Franklin, Tenn.
Junior Libby Avery got the Bears started on the right foot with a birdie on the par-4 10th, NC's first hole of the day. Avery finished her day with a 6-over 78 and sits in a tie for 82nd place on the individual leaderboard.
"I was a little nervous going into it," Avery said. "But after I got through the first hole, I felt pretty good about the round. The practice round (on Wednesday) was really difficult, but being able to start off (Thursday's round) good was really helpful."
The Bears were once again paced by junior Carleigh Silvers, the 2012 Big Sky individual champion. She shot a 75 (+3), and is tied for 42nd place among individuals.
Silvers started her round with a pair of birdies on her first five holes. She birdied the par-5 12th and hit a great tee shot for a birdie on the par-3 14th hole.
Junior Hannah McNeley rounded out the Bears effort with a 8-over 80, good for a tie for 106th place.
"They could've got off to a slow start," White said. "Let their nerves get the best of them. But they didn't, they did a great job of staying focused and we got off to, actually a pretty good start."
The Bears were at +8 through their first nine, hunting around the top 10 of the leaderboard, but on the front nine, NC's second nine of the day, the mercury rose and course conditions worsened.
"We kind of gave up a few shots on the (second) nine," White said. "It was warm today, so these greens got really firm and fast and we misjudged a few shots into the greens, with them being firm and fast like that I think we got a little tentative on our putting."
The conditions are expected to be vastly different for Friday's round, with temperatures forecast in the low 50s with rain throughout the day.
"We just need to do a good job tomorrow with whatever elements we wake up to," White said. "We were hoping maybe for rain in the afternoon since we play in the morning."
Nelson will be the first of the Bears to tee off Friday, playing the 1st hole at 8:25 a.m., with one of her teammates starting every 11 minutes until Carleigh Silvers tees off the 1st at 9:09 a.m.
"Overall, it was a great day for our program to be included in this field with so many great teams," White said. "You look at that leaderboard and see a bunch of teams in the top ten in the country and almost every team in this field in the top 40 in the country, so it's pretty special to be included with such great teams and we're just going to keep working hard these next couple days."