DIVISION I-A GOLF: Becker, Smith help Crusaders to opening-round lead

Julia Becker and Sydney Smith have alternated the top spots in most of Faith Lutheran’s golf meets this season.

Nothing changed on the biggest stage.

Becker, who was the medalist in the Southern Region tournament, held the top score after the first day of the Division I-A state tournament Monday with a 1-under-par 71 at Elko’s Ruby View Golf Course.

Smith was second with a 72 for the Crusaders, and their scores helped Faith Lutheran (344) to a four-stroke lead over Clark going into the final day on Tuesday.

“Julia scrambled well today,” Crusaders coach Mark Cheney said. “She had some struggles on the green early, and rebounded from that. That has to give her some confidence going into tomorrow.”

After winning its sixth consecutive region title last week, Faith Lutheran struggled on the greens early Monday, but managed to take the lead over rival Clark after 18 holes.

“We had some putting challenges,” Cheney said. “The greens at Ruby View are contoured, so that led to some difficulties for most of the people playing in the tournament. We knew it would be a close competition, but you can’t complain about being in the lead. We did some (short game) work after the round, so I feel good about tomorrow.”

Elko’s Kaily Beatty and Clark’s Grace Kang each carded a 78 to finish the opening round tied for third. Fernley’s Brittany Evans (79) and Clark’s Cassandra Ho (82) rounded out the top six.

The Crusaders will be looking for their third consecutive state title on Tuesday. Cheney said his girls should be more comfortable after familiarizing themselves with the 5,332-yard course.

“Today was the first time playing the course for us,” Cheney said. “I think it will make a difference tomorrow having that knowledge of the course.”

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