JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. – Jacksonville's Jessica Welch and ETSU's Sian Evans each fired a 67 to tie the low 18-hole score and East Tennessee State shot one-under-par to finish as the leader and the only team under par in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Women's Golf Championship.
Stetson finished the opening day of play with a 305 and stands in seventh place, 18 shots behind the leaders.
The Bucs shot 287, three strokes better than their first round of 290 in last year's championship. Three Bucs placed in the Top 10, as defending champion Gabriella Wahl tied for third at one-under-par and freshman Vivienne Chin finished at +2.
Five players finished under par and two others shot even. Florida Gulf Coast and Mercer tied for third with rounds of 298, followed by defending champion Kennesaw State (299), North Florida (300), Stetson (305), USC Upstate (311), Lipscomb (318) and Northern Kentucky (336).
The Hatters were led in the opening round of play by Mallory Viera, who posted a one-over par score of 73 to tie for eighth place on the first day of competition. Ryan Ashburn was three shots further back after an opening 76 and is tied for 18th.
Jenna Hoecker (77), Sammi Smith (79) and Claudia Redinger (79) are all in position, with a good performance on Tuesday, to be in the hunt for a top 15 finish on Wednesday.
Welch's Dolphins placed second at +5 (293), 10 strokes better than their best round in last year's championship. Francesca Yong joined Welch in the Top 10 for JU, tying for 10th with a two-over-par 74.
Five of the eight birdies from Welch came on the back 9, as she shot 31 on the second nine and was under par on holes 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16. This is the second consecutive year that the championship's low round was equaled, as defending individual champion Gabriella Wahl did so last season as a freshman in the first round.
Welch's round sets a new program record, breaking the previous record set by she and teammate Natalie Schmett of 69. Welch shot 69 this year in on October 15, 2013, in the JU Courtyard Classic. Schmett recorded her 69 as a freshman in the final round of last year's A-Sun Championship. Led by Evans, ETSU fired a first-round.
Play will continue in the A-Sun Tournament on Tuesday beginning at 8 a.m. Follow the Hatters live through their round on GolfStat.com.