Gabriella Wahl, an ETSU junior, has earned her degree in just three years and plans to begin her professional playing career following the completion of this 2013-14 season.
She knows all too well that this is her last opportunity to play in the NCAA postseason.
And if Thursday’s first round in the NCAA East Regional at the Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla., was any indication, she plans to make the most of it.
Wahl carded a score of 4-under-par 68 to finish tied for third individually, and her efforts helped power the No. 43-ranked Buccaneers into a tie for sixth on the team leaderboard following the opening day of play.
The Bucs must finish in the top eight to advance to the NCAA Championships, which are set to begin May 20 at the Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
“The ladies played well and put us in great position going into our morning round tomorrow” said ETSU assistant coach Lauren Stratton, who is on the road with the team as head coach Stefanie Shelton is on maternity leave.
“I am very proud of everyone and the way they battled in the wind this afternoon. We’re ready to get back out there for the second round.”
The Bucs combined for 13 birdies as a team and finished the day at 289.
They are currently ahead of seven teams that have higher Golfstat.com rankings, including No. 5 South Carolina and No. 8 Stanford.
In addition, the 289 total is the second-best opening round in NCAA Regional play for ETSU, only four shots behind the 285 the Bucs shot at the 2010 East Regional.
No. 12-ranked Vanderbilt currently leads the event at 11-under 277, three strokes ahead of second place and No. 34-ranked Tulane at 280.
Individually, Wahl is three strokes back of Tulane’s Emily Penttila, who holds the individual lead after posting a score of 7-under 65 on Thursday.
Wahl, a three-time All Atlantic Sun Conference performer, opened the event with four birdies in her first five holes, but she was not alone in powering the Bucs.
Senior Sian Evans shot an even-par 72 to finish tied for 28th, and freshman Linda Dobele showed no signs of nerves in her first regional appearance, carding three birdies on the back nine to finish with a solid round of 2-over 74.
Meanwhile, A-Sun individual medalist Vivienne Chin shot a three-over par 75.