PORTLAND - With first-year golfer Taylor Head shooting 81 (one stroke off the lead), a young Whitman women's golf squad shot its best team-score of the season and was in fourth place after Saturday's opening round of the Northwest Conference Championships at Heron Lakes Golf Course.
Whitman posted a team score of 344 as its top four players finished with individual rounds in the 80s for the first time this season.
The Missionaries are just five shots behind third-place Linfield and eight strokes back of second-place George Fox. Whitworth took the first-day lead with a 332 team score.
Whitman, which entered the weekend in three-way tie with Puget Sound and Pacific for fifth place in season standings, finished the opening round with slim leads over those two teams. Puget Sound trailed the Missionaries by one stroke while Pacific was five strokes back.
"We picked a great time for our best round of the season," Whitman coach Skip Molitor said. "We haven't had the greatest spring season prior to today, so this is a testament to our players, their fortitude and ability to overcome some of the problems we've had."
Head shot 42 on the front nine and then played the final seven holes in even par to card her 81 and second place for the day. Her round included a pair of birdies, including a tap-in four on the 457-yard par-5 fifth hole.
Whitworth's Emily Guthrie shot the day's low score at 80. Whitworth's Rachel Dubes is in third place at 82.
Caitlin Holland, another of the three first-year players, also finished strong, polishing off a 40 on the back nine for an 86.
Senior Kelsi Evans, after getting treatment for a bad knee prior to the round, shot 45-43 for an 88. Sydney Conway, a first-year player who missed Whitman's previous tournament because of health issues, was steady with a 44-45 89.
The tournament ends with Sunday's second round.