STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- South Carolina put together one of its best opening rounds of the season on Thursday as it posted an even-par 288 to take the lead at the NCAA East Regional at the Penn State Golf Course.

The 25th-ranked Gamecocks hold a four-shot advantage ahead of No. 2 Alabama (288). The round of 288 is tied for the 10th best 18-hole score in school history. Freshman Justine Dreher fired a 2-under 70 to lead the way and finish the day in third place, trailing Texas A&M’s Katerina Ruzickova by three strokes.

“Overall, the whole day was a success,” said South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris, who guided the team to the program’s first regional title in 2010. “We had some pretty windy conditions. I like our position right now. We had a solid day and a really good finish. I’m very proud of that. We stayed very patient today.”

2012 Regionals
REGIONAL LEADER SCORE
East South Carolina 288
Central Southern California 298
West North Carolina 288
Complete Results

South Carolina battled through cold temperatures and wind gusts of up to 20 mph to erase six shots in the last four holes to get to even par.

Dreher, who is coming off a tie for 12th at the SEC Championship, continued her solid play with a near flawless round as she recorded only one bogey. She made the turn at even par and played her best golf of the round on the back nine, shooting a bogey-free 2-under 34. Dreher sank a long putt across the green at the par-4 16th for birdie to highlight her day and narrowly missed a birdie attempt on No. 18.

“Justine Dreher had it going all day long,” Harris said. “Believe it or not it could have been better. As Katie Burnett said, ‘I’m glad she’s on our team.’”

Burnett bounced back from a sluggish start to shoot an even-par 72 to finish the day in a tie for sixth place. The Brunswick, Ga., native was 3-over through 14 holes but she caught fire down the stretch. She hit a solid approach shot on the par-4 15th to within 10 feet of the hole and sank the putt as she birdied three of her final four holes to fight back to even par.

Junior Amanda Strang and sophomore Suzie Lee each posted a 1-over 73 to head into the clubhouse in a tie for 17th, while junior Meredith Swanson shot a 78 (+6) to finish the day in a tie for 72nd.

Strang had a strong finish similar to Burnett’s as she was 3-over through 14 holes. She birded the par-4 15th and closed out her round on a positive note with a birdie on the 18th to wrap up the round at 1-over.

Lee, who is playing in her first tournament since early March because of a surgery, didn’t show any signs of rust. After recording bogeys on the third and fourth holes, she settled down to play the rest of her round at 1-under.

The SEC holds the top three spots on the leaderboard with the Gamecocks in the lead, Alabama in second and Florida sitting in third after shooting a 294 (+6). Washington, Texas and Texas A&M are tied for fourth after each posting a 296 (+8).