May 18, 2010

By Neil Amato
Special to

WILMINGTON, N.C. - Jessica Negron didn't become a different person just because she shot a surprising 3-under 69 on Tuesday in the biggest tournament of her life.

She giggled like the teenager she is. She was taken aback by the sudden media interest after the best round of the morning tee times. A freshman, Negron didn't hesitate to grab a teammate's push-cart and wheel it off the green after the senior's round was complete.

And se has no idea if the Seminoles plan to visit the beach during their stay at the coast for the Division I NCAA championships in women's golf.

"I'm just going with the flow," Negron said after a bogey-free round that put her two shots out of the individual lead. Florida State's players have had little choice but to go with the flow in the spring season. After faring well in several fall tournaments, the Seminoles were about to start second-semester classes when they were told that longtime coach Debbie Dillman had been fired.

About six weeks later, the school hired Kate Golden, a former LPGA player, as interim coach. Though that interim tag and an air of uncertainty remain, the players haven't let it get to them. Thanks to Negron's round and a 2-under 70 from Chattanooga transfer Maria Salinas, the Seminoles shot 1-over 289, and are tied for sixth after the first day. Negron shot 73-80-80 in the Central Regional, so her 69 on Tuesday was a mild surprise. Still, she and the rest of the Seminoles went in to this week confident.

"I got all those negative thoughts out of my head from those last two rounds of regionals," Negron said.

Golden has barely had time to learn proper form on the Seminoles' trademark tomahawk chop, so it stands to reason that she's still getting to know the players. She noticed pretty early that Negron had the ability to move on quickly after a bad shot.

"It's almost like she's got blinders on," Golden said. "She never gets too up, too down. That's the sign of a good player."

Negron is the Seminoles' No. 3 player in stroke average, but on Tuesday, she was No. 1.

"During my round, I was constantly getting pars," she said. "I was really happy with that, because pars are good. But then I started making a couple birdies and I was getting happy, but I tried to stay calm, not get ahead of myself and blow up."

MEMORY OF LOVE: Virginia's team didn't appear to be playing with heavy hearts. Instead, the Cavaliers seemed to play inspired golf in honor of Yeardley Love, the slain women's lacrosse player.

Blue oval patches with "Y.L. 1" in white letters were affixed to the players' golf bags and the hats of coach Kim Lewellen and others. Love, who wore jersey No. 1 for the highly ranked women's team, was killed in Charlottesville on May 3. Police have charged a player on the men's lacrosse team with murder.

"The patch is just a reminder of Yeardley and the spirit she had for her game and we're hoping to have that spirit for our game as well," Lewellen said. "It's just a reminder of how special a person she is. We're playing for her, too." The Cavaliers shot 6-over-par 294 in the morning round, and are in 10th place.

NO. 18 IS NO. 1: The easiest hole relative to par on Tuesday was the par-5 18th. The 445-yard hole - 65 yards shorter than the next-shortest par-5 - yielded 62 birdies and four eagles, including one by Tulane's Samantha Troyanovich on a putt of more than 100 feet.

The average score on the hole was 4.50.

"It is a wonderful finishing hole, because it gives you such a good chance at birdie," Virginia's Lewellen said. The toughest hole was the par-4 third, which had an average score of 4.50.