BOULDER CITY, Nev. – During first round action at the 2017 Big Sky Conference Championships Friday, the Northern Arizona University golf team turned in a fifth-place team score of 28-over-par 316.
What was shaping out to be a long day for the Lumberjacks on the Boulder Creek Golf Course wasn't actually all that bad, considering NAU finds itself within striking distance of fourth place Idaho (three strokes), third place Northern Colorado (five strokes back), second place Sacramento State (six strokes) and first place Portland State (seven strokes) with two rounds to play.
"The wind was howling today," said Head Coach Brad Bedortha. "With that said, I think we played okay. At this point in time, we're only seven strokes back of first. The most important thing is that we're definitely not out of the mix; we still have a chance. We didn't play our best, but we still have an opportunity tomorrow and Sunday to make some noise."
After getting off to a bit of a rocky start to her standards, logging four bogey putts in the first nine holes, Anokhina followed suit of today's wind and calmed down on the back nine, piecing together a stretch of four birdies in a five-hole span. The true sophomore from Russia ended the first round of conference championship action with a first-place tally of even-par 72, thanks in part to a 4-under 32 score and five birdies on holes No. 10 through 18.
Anokhina is up one stroke on today's second-place individual finisher.
"For whatever reason, my putting was really weird today," Anokhina admitted after the round. "Usually, it's one of the strongest parts of my game, but I was just struggling with it on the front nine. When I got to the back nine, though, I was just thinking about how well I played on it last year and carried that confidence with me to finish out the round on a good note."
Today's second-best NAU scorecard belonged to No. 3 scorer Kaitlyn Saum. Saum, a junior from Mesa, Ariz., remained relatively consistent throughout the round, posting a 4-over 40 on the front half of the course and a 3-over 39 on the back half (7-over 79).
Not to go unnoticed, Saum seemingly kept her composure today, given the fact she followed up a triple-bogey on No. 3 with five straight par putts and ended the round parring seven of her last eight holes.
Scoring out of the No. 4 slot for the Lumberjacks was true freshman Loren Skibba, who showed flashes of impressive play this afternoon. Skibba, like the rest of the field, had a difficult time on the front nine (8-over 44), but rallied on the back half of the course for a 2-over 38. Skibba enters Saturday's second round in a tie for 32nd with a 10-over 82.
Playing in what very well could be her last collegiate tournament as a 'Jack, senior Kim Cifuentes began Big Sky's with an 11-over 83 round Friday. After heading into the back half with a 7-over 43 score, the native of Gilbert, Ariz., improved to a 4-over 40 on the back-nine.
Lumberjack fans can bet that the always-dedicated and constructive Cifuentes will take today's round for what it was, learn from it and come back tomorrow even more determined and ready to go.
Sierra Bezdicek was the first NAU golfer to tee off this morning, but struggled to find any kind of rhythm throughout the round. After going for a 12-over 48 on the front nine, Bezdicek was a bit more comfortable on the back nine with a 7-over 43. The Lumberjacks' No. 5 golfer finished her round Friday afternoon with a total score of 19-over 91.
Big Sky Championships pick up tomorrow morning. Tee times have not yet been determined, but we will get you that information once it becomes available.