FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Virginia opened the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship on Tuesday as the beneficiary and victim of such dramatic and dastardly happenings they seemed like they were lifted from the pages of a comic book.
Call it the day of Batman and robbed.
First, the heroine of the piece: Portland Rosen playing out of the No. 5 position for the Cavaliers.
Her best new friend is the belly putter Virginia coach Kim Lewellen suggested she try in preparation for the NCAA Championship after a season of struggles on the greens. It helped her knock in a string of 10 and 12-footers en route to a 6-under par 66 that held up as the low individual score all day.
“This putter she looked at about a month ago, liked it, and it has a shape like the Batman symbol,” Lewellen said.
“Today it worked like a super hero.”
Bolstered by her caped crusader-shaped club, Rosen birdied 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 to set fire to the front nine with a course-record 29.
First, though, she made a superhuman shot with her 5-iron.
The very first player to tee off No. 1 at 8:30 a.m. ET, Rosen’s drive only carried about 210 yards on the 384-yard par 4, but she then dropped her 171-yard second shot into the hole for a stunning eagle 2.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Rosen said facetiously. “Crush driver, 171 yards, in the hole. My father, Rocket [Steven Rosen’s real middle name; he was born on the Fourth of July] started jumping up and down yelling, ‘It’s in! It’s in!’ but he always says that.”
Waiting on the first tee one spot behind Rosen, Virginia’s Lauren Greenlief turned to UVA coach Kim Lewellen and said: “Hey coach, right now we’re leading the NCAA Championship.”
Unfortunately, the feel-good Cavalier attitude wouldn’t last.
As it turned out, there was a Joker lurking in Virginia’s deck of scorecards.
Fueled by Rosen’s 66, it appeared as though Virginia had set the bar with a team score of 6 under 282. Brittany Altomare turned in a 71, as did Elizabeth Brightwell, while Greenlief had a 74.
Well after completing her round, however, Brightwell informed tournament officials that she signed for a birdie 4 on the par-5 fourth hole when she actually scored a 5. Her 71 was in reality a 72.
As a result, Brightwell’s score was stricken from Virginia’s team total, forcing the Cavaliers to count a 77 from Briana Mao.
That put Virginia at even par 288, not 5-under 283 as the Cavaliers would have been had Brightwell signed for a 72. Instead of a three-stroke lead against Alabama — which shot 2 under 286 — Virginia is two shots behind.
“I feel bad for Virginia,” Alabama coach Mic Potter said. “They’re a great group of kids. As a coach, you’re scared to death when they walk out of that scorers’ tent.”
Head rules official Jerry Lemieux said Brightwell will be allowed to finish the tournament and that her scores can count toward Virginia’s team total, but she can’t compete for individual honors as she lacks a first-round score.
“I feel bad for Elizabeth and bad for the team,” Lewellen said, whose team finished fourth in last year’s championship. “We just have to go out there and keep playing.”
And hold out hope for another hero to help them stay in contention for a lead that should have been theirs.