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Lyndsey Hunnell leads the Virginia Women's Stroke Play
Virginia rising junior Lyndsey Hunnell <br>(VSGA Photo)
Virginia rising junior Lyndsey Hunnell
(VSGA Photo)
BLACKSBURG, VA (June 12, 2017) - For Lyndsey Hunnell, the summer is the time to gain and build confidence in events that count. She’s spent two years at the University of Virginia but has yet to crack the lineup for the uber-competitive Cavaliers, who are a mainstay in NCAA regionals.

Though there’s plenty of time to practice in Charlottesville, sometimes it takes some time to regain competitive flow in championship-level events. In that regard, the Troutville resident’s first round at the 40th Virginia Women’s Stroke Play Championship had to be encouraging.

Hunnell posted five birdies on a bogey-free front nine Monday at Blacksburg Country Club and hung on after that for a 4-under-par 68 that gave her a one-stroke edge after 18 holes of the 54-hole championship.

“It’s really different,” said Hunnell, a member at Hanging Rock Golf Club. “It kind of goes that I don’t have any confidence, and then I start getting it back in the summer.”

Hunnell was one of two competitors to post an under-par round at Blacksburg’s par-72 layout on Monday. She shared a cart with the other, recent Virginia Tech graduate Whitney Stevenson (Blacksburg CC), who shot a 3-under 69.

Elsa Diaz (Independence GC) and Karishma Thiagaraj (Dominion Valley CC) returned even-par 72s and are tied for third, four shots back of Hunnell. Diaz, who plays at the University of Richmond, won the VSGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship in 2015.

Hunnell quickly erased the bad taste of a poor back nine in Sunday’s Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame tournament by putting up some red numbers from the get-go. She birdied her first two holes and added birdies at Nos. 5, 6 and 8 to turn at 5 under. She got as low as 6 under with a birdie on No. 13 but gave two shots back with bogeys at Nos. 14 and 16.

“I was trying not think about it, but then I got really excited,” Hunnell said. “The back nine is really where I kind of messed up at the Hall of Fame too, because I was 1 under at the turn and then I messed it all up. I was just kind of trying to hold my breath for the rest of the nine [Monday]. And it worked out.”

Stevenson’s round was essentially the opposite of Hunnell’s. Stevenson, who played with Tech teammate Elizabeth Bose as last month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, was at even par Monday after a bogey on No. 11. But she quickly countered with birdies on 12, 15 and 16 to finish her day at 3 under.

“I just felt like I kept getting freer and freer, looser and looser, as I played,” Stevenson said. “It seemed to really work out for me. Making birdies–and especially playing with Lyndsey, who was dropping birdies from all over the place–it was fun.”

Diaz’s title defense in 2016 was a short one, as she struggled with a painful cyst on her left wrist and eventually withdrew from the championship. The cyst is still there, but her father—who is both her chiropractor and her swing coach—has helped her return to playing pain-free golf in 2017.

“He knows how to fix my swing,” said Diaz, who recovered from a 40 on the front nine to post a 4-under 32 on the back Monday. “It’s actually super cool, because when it starts hurting, I know I’m doing something wrong with my hands. My dad worked extremely hard on my swing, and he’s taught me to have better hand motion. And I haven’t had any pain since that tournament.”

Defending Women’s Stroke Play champion Alexandra Austin (Springfield G&CC) and Amanda Hollandsworth (Great Oaks CC), last year’s runner-up, each shot 2-over 74 and are tied for sixth. But with 36 holes left, neither can be considered out of the hunt.

View results for Virginia Women's Stroke Play Championship

ABOUT THE VSGA Women's Stroke Play

54-hole, stroke play competition (18 holes per day). The field will be flighted by score after the first two rounds of play into an appropriate number of flights based on field size. The champion is the player with the lowest 54-hole score and the champion and runner-up may come from any flight. Open to female golfers of all ages. Participants must hold an active GHIN number issued by a licensed VSGA member club in good standing.

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