In a loaded field that includes 24 of the nation’s top 100 players and 12 of the country’s top 50 teams, senior Hee Ying Loy (Johor, Malaysia) and sophomore Tereza Melecka (Belcovice, Czech Republic) went shot-for-shot with the top collegiate golfer in the land, Loy finishing level with Stanford’s Andrea Lee while Melecka rests just two shots back of Loy and Lee after one day of play at the three-round NCAA East Lansing Regional.
Loy, who entered the tournament ranked No. 69 in the collegiate landscape by Golfweek, had a difficult beginning to her third consecutive NCAA regional appearance, bogeying four times on the front nine, but would rebound in the latter half of the day, carding her lone birdie of Monday’s first round to play the back nine in 1-under-par. Loy’s 75 leaves her in a tie for 35th-place at 3-over-par, knotted with Golfweek’s No. 1 Lee and six others seven strokes off the lead.
Melecka, playing in her first NCAA regional since joining the Bucs prior to the 2017-18 season, opened her 18 with a birdie on the par three, 157-yard 10th hole, and would log two more birdies as she showed flashes of brilliance throughout her initial attempt at Forest Akers West Golf Course. The sophomore was unable to avoid mistakes, though, as two double-bogeys dropped her to 5-over-par exiting round one, tied for 58th-place with eight others.
The 95 golfers not in the lead after day one are all chasing Kent State’s Pimnipa Panthong, who fired four of her five birdies on the back nine, concluding her round one shot ahead of Michigan State’s Haylin Harris, who took advantage of playing on her home course with a 3-under-par 69.
Panthong’s solid start helped the Golden Flashes seize the team lead by a commanding eight strokes, their 6-under-par mark separating them from 2-over-par Arizona and 4-over-par Illinois who round out the top three.
The top six teams and top three individuals who are not on qualifying teams will advance to play in next weekend’s NCAA Championships, so Tuesday will be key for Loy and Melecka. 19 of the competitors that are ahead of Loy going to the second round of action are currently on teams that occupy the top six spots in the 18-team field, meaning a good score could push the senior, or her underclass counterpart Melecka, closer to a shot at the NCAA title.
Loy leaves the first tee Tuesday at 8:58 a.m. ET with playing partners Kirsty Hodgkins of Colorado and Cecelie Finn-Ipsen of Charlotte, while Melecka begins her push up the leaderboard two minutes later on hole 10 with fellow NCAA hopefuls Ashley Lau of Michigan and Emma Albrecht of Notre Dame.