Zajicek leads Whitman women golfers

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Just two strokes separated Whitman College’s Katie Zajicek and Kelley Sweeney here Sunday during the first round of the O’Brien Invitational that is being played on the University of Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course.

But the two Missionaries had starkly different rounds as they led Whitman to eighth place in the prestigious 10-team field going into today’s second and final round of play.

Zajicek’s 8-over-par round of 80 was marked by a sluggish start as she bogeyed the first hole and suffered a double-bogey on the second.

But Zajicek recovered by firing three birdies over an eight-hole stretch that included back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes.

Sweeney’s 10-over 82 was quite the opposite as she was just one shot over par after 11 holes.

But Sweeney ran into trouble after that by make two double-bogeys and a triple in a five-hole stretch.

Whitman’s team score of 336 trailed tournament-leading Methodist University by 18 strokes. The defending NCAA Division III champion recorded a 318 score and was the only group in the field to break 320.

Washington University shot 321, Central College 325 and Wisconsin-Eau Claire 329 to round out the top four. The next three schools — Whitman Northwest Conference rival George Fox (331), host St. Mary’s (332) and DePauw (332), last year’s national runner-up — were all within Whitman’s reach going into today’s final round.

“That’s the good news,” said Whitman coach Skip Molitor, who was encouraged by his players’ willingness to take on the difficulties of a tough layout and keep the team in contention.

“The chance to finish in the middle of this field gives our ladies plenty of motivation to keep their heads up and bring our A game on the final day,” Molitor said. “Tournaments tend to be decided on the last day of competition, and I believe our experience and team unity gives us a chance to move up the ladder against some of the best programs in the country.”

First-year player Alyssa Maine shot 86 for the Missionaries and Catelyn Webber’s 88 filled out the four-player team scoring. Tate Head shot a non-counting 91 and Caitlin Holland, who played as an individual, shot a 92 that was enhanced by back-to-back birdies.

Whitman held a three-shot lead over Allegheny College (330) and was four in front of Gustavus Adolphus (340) beginning today’s play.

Kelsey Morrison of George Fox, last year’s Northwest Conference Player of the Year, held the individual lead after the first round with a 1-over-par 73.

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