The Michigan women's golf team ended the first round of its NCAA Regional just two strokes behind Arkansas for the lead. File Photo/Daily. Buy this photo.

The Michigan women’s golf team’s first-day performance at the NCAA Regional can be described as a tale of two nines. The Wolverines began the first half of their round two under par, but they shot 11 over on the back half of the course to finish the day tied for second at nine over par (293) — just two strokes behind Arkansas in the lead.

On Monday, the University of Michigan Golf Course played host to 12 of the nation’s top teams and six additional individual qualifiers for the first round of an NCAA Regional, the first in Ann Arbor since 2007.

The round was defined by strong winds pushing drives and approach shots off course. The wind picked up around the time the Wolverines made the turn, leading to those struggles on the back nine. Other teams in the field saw similar drop-offs in performance when the wind picked up, causing errant shots and higher scores as the round progressed.

“The conditions kind of got the best of us a little bit … (on) the back nine,” Michigan coach Jan Dowling said. “We didn’t control our golf balls quite as well as we needed to in the wind, which is a tough task.”

As host of the regional, Michigan came into the tournament knowing that it held an advantage over its competitors. 

Preparation tends to change from tournament to tournament based on the course that is being played. An intense understanding of a tournament’s course developed through years of practice rounds can grant an invaluable edge to a team of golfers. For the Wolverines, every shot they stand over this week is familiar because they have been in that same spot, hitting into that same pin before.

Despite their privileged position, the Wolverines don’t want to get complacent. They realize that they have to stay at the top of their game and play the best golf they can, regardless of the familiar environment.

“(We’re) staying patient out there because we know the course so well,” senior Ashley Lau said. “So try to not get too comfortable on the course and really treat it as a tournament, not just some round on our home course, not letting the pressure get to us, — those will be very big keys.”

The Wolverines sit in striking distance of the lead, ready to pounce on moving day. Going forward into the next two days of play, Michigan is looking to regain momentum from its front nine success on Monday.

“We played some pretty darn good golf on that front nine,” Dowling said. “That really helps with our confidence.”

“It feels pretty solid about where we stand,” Dowling said earlier in the interview. “But there’s two more rounds to play, and it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

If the Wolverines can return to their front-nine form, they have a shot to run up the leaderboard.