Richmond, VA -
Virginia women's golfer Lauren Greenlief (Oakton, Va.) admits that she's been looking forward to defending the Virginias Women's Stroke Play title that she claimed in 2009 and 2010.
Judging by her first round best score of even-par 72 on Tuesday at Willow Oaks Country Club, the 20-year-old seems intent on making VSGA history. No player has taken home the event title three consecutive years, but the University of Virginia graduate if off to a fast start in her hopes of setting precedent at the championship.
Entering Wednesday's second round, Greenlief owns a three-stroke lead.
It didn't take long for Greenlief to get comfortable on the Women's Stroke Play stage again this time around. She made three birdies in a six-hole span to turn in three under. In that stretch, she stuffed a sand wedge approach to three feet for a tap-in birdie at the par-4 fourth, drilled a 7-iron to 12 feet for an eventual birdie at the demanding par-3 seventh and closed the nice surge by holing a short putt at the par-4 ninth to post 3-under 33 on the outward half.
Crosswinds played havoc with club selection and distance control on the second nine, where Greenlief made three bogeys, but it didn't affect her spot atop the leader board.
Her key to success around the nearly 5,700-yard layout? Greenlief's steady play and patience left little doubt about the wisdom of her strategy to position her ball correctly in order to set up birdie chances.
"It's a placement course," said Greenlief, who noted that she hit driver off the tee only four of 14 times when the situation allowed. "You have to put your ball in the right place and I think I did that well."
By now, Greenlief, the 2010 VSGA Women's Division Golfer of the Year, is used to high achievement. She graduated from college a year early, earning her undergraduate degree in math and economics about three weeks ago. She'll begin work on her master's degree in finance in the fall, with a year of eligibility remaining on the golf team.
For the time being, however, she's remained focused on improving her game - and taking ownership of the Sydney Elliott Trophy when the 54-hole championship concludes on Thursday. Greenlief is working an internship at Arlington-based FI Consulting, but the day is hardly finished when she leaves the office; for Greenlief, that means it's time to head straight to the practice range and her home club, International Country Club in Fairfax, to refine her game.
The results of her dilligence were obvious in round one. Another victory at the Women's Stroke Play is at the forefront of her attention.
"Winning the past two years - it has pumped me up," Greenlief admits. "I had a lot of confidence coming into the event and I've been working really hard to win it again."
Note: Story by Virginia State Golf Association.