Playing on links courses throughout Europe, Giulia Molinari got used to posting low scores despite adverse weather conditions.
So when the Arizona State senior fired a 1-under-par 71 to lead the field in the first round of the Pac-12 women’s golf championships at Palouse Ridge Golf Club on Friday, it wasn’t of much surprise.
Quite simply, coach Melissa Luellen said, this is what she does.
“She’s played a lot in Europe, and she felt like that was an advantage for her,” Luellen said. “It’s like when it gets bad, she gets excited.”
“I’m used to having to figure out how to score even when the wind is very hard or the rain’s coming down heavy,” Molinari said.
Molinari, the No. 4 player in the country according to Golfweek, was the only player from the field of 55 to finish the day under par. She did it in the face of howling winds and chilly temperatures more than twice as low as what she faces in Tempe.
The Italian-born Molinari said she didn’t make a bad shot until the par-5 18th hole, where she made bogey after her approach shot wound up in the bunker and she couldn’t get up and down.
Otherwise, she was a model of consistency, carding pars on each of the first nine holes, then making birdies on 10 and 11. Her first bogey didn’t come until the 16th, but she bounced back by making a short putt for birdie on 17.
“I think on the third, fourth hole, I told our assistant coach, Missy (Farr-Kaye), that it was going to be a good day,” said Molinari, who added that the green conditions at Palouse Ridge were possibly the best she’s seen this season. “I just felt that my rhythm was good and I felt I was understanding the course well.”
ASU, ranked fourth in the nation by Golfweek, also finished the day atop the team leaderboard at 11-over, five shots ahead of No. 1 UCLA. That’s a number the Sun Devils are pleased with after Thursday’s rain and wind prevented them from playing a practice round.
“We had the girls prepared for snow showers and the worst,” Luellen said. “I think they saw when it didn’t rain, they were excited and felt lucky.”
“As a team, we thought that even-par today would be considered 75,” Molinari said. “So that I shot 71 is a great score.”
Jennifer Coleman of Colorado, Erynne Lee of UCLA and Lisa McCloskey of USC are tied for second at 2-over. Emma Betland of Washington State is tied for fifth after a 3-over 75.
The Cougars finished the day tied in seventh place as a team at 24-over.
Washington junior Chris Williams (Moscow High) is tied for seventh place after the first two rounds of the Pac-12 Championships at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Ore.
Williams shot rounds of even-par 72 and 70 to trail Oregon’s Eugene Wong by five shots.
Stanford’s Andrew Yun is one shot behind Wong, and UCLA star Patrick Cantlay is in third place.
Washington’s 13th-ranked team struggled to a 734 and is in eighth place, 15 shots behind second-ranked UCLA.
Washington State (733) is tied for sixth place.
WSU seniors Trent Sanders and Branden Dalton shot 145s.