By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma's Emily Collins knows plenty about playing good golf. The junior from Colleyville, Texas, played in her first U.S. Open last summer and, this fall and spring, put together a collegiate-best scoring average of 74.15. Friday, though, was something else.
Collins, playing in the No. 3 position for the fourth-ranked Sooners, who began their three-day run as hosts of the NCAA Central Regional Thursday at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, turned in her best collegiate round to date, carding a 5-under par 67.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
Never before had she shot any better than 69 on her home course. Never before had she played it bogey free. And, rare is the day Anne-Catherine Tanguay and Chirapat Jao-Javanil have to settle for second- and third-best among their own starting five, but that was Thursday as Collins became the prime mover in the Sooners’ push toward the top of the leaderboard.
Collins’ 67 was also good for the lead in the individual medalist standings. She was one stroke better than Florida’s Elcin Ulu and two strokes better than a logjam of six others who shot 69.
Florida, behind Ulu and Mia Piccio, one of the six at 69, took the overnight lead of the three-day 54-hole event with a fantastic 6-under par 282.
Behind Collins, the Sooners are a stroke back at 283. Also counting scores for OU were Tanguay, with a 71, Jao-Javanil with a 72 and Kaitlin Rohrback with a 73. Taylor Schmidt’s 78 was discarded.
Duke (284), TCU (290) and Michigan State and Cal-Davis (291) round out the top five of the 24-team event, the top eight of which will qualify for the NCAA tournament, set to begin May 21 in Athens, Ga.
“It was fun watching her go low,” OU coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell said of Collins. “She’s been playing really solid, swinging at it really well, so I think it was just a matter of time before her putter got hot and it got hot today.”
Key to Collin’ round were accuracy and her ability not to give any strokes away.
“Everything was kind of going,” she said. “I hit bad shots, of course, but I hit every fairway and I made all the par puts that I needed to make, like all the five-footers.”
She made birdie at No. 3, a short par 4; No. 5, a challenging par 5 that plays 531 yards; No. 11, a straight-away par 4; No. 13, a par 5 with a creek running across the fairway that keeps anybody from hitting their second shot from too short; and No. 16, a 394-yard par 4.
Birdies aside, Collins’ most important putt of the day may have been the 12-footer she drained for par at No. 12, a par 3. Three-under at the time, it kept her round moving the right direction.
“I’m pretty happy with most of my year,” she said, “but it was good I could put everything together at regionals and help the team.”
If she keeps it up, the Sooners are bound to remain in the thick of the team race and Collins may find herself competing for her first medalist crown.
“We know the course and we’re off to a good start,” she said. “That should help us the next few days and in a few weeks, too.”
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