UA men and women open Blessings in 1st place

A Razorback head cover sits in a golf bag at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers during practice rounds for the Walmart NWA Arkansas Championship.

The Arkansas men’s and women’s teams capitalized on their home-course knowledge to take the first-round lead at the fourth Blessings Collegiate Invitational on Monday at Blessings Golf Club in Johnson.

Coach Brad McMakin’s No. 11 men, paced by first-round leader senior John Driscoll’s 4-under 68, shot 9-under par to hold a nine-shot lead over No. 20 Mississippi State.

Coach Shauna Taylor’s No. 3 women turned in a 3-under 285 to lead Mississippi State by four shots. The Razorbacks’ ‘B’ team was in third place at 3-over, two shots behind the Bulldogs.

Arkansas freshman Maria Jose Marin carded a 5-under 67 with eight birdies on the 6,503-yard women’s layout to hold a one-stroke lead over senior teammate Ela Anacona, who had an eagle 3 on the 540-yard 2nd hole.

Four Razorback men were among the top five finishers on the rugged 7,720-yard design. Junior Manuel Lozada held sole possession of second place at 3-under, followed by senior Jacob Skov Olesen and Matthis Lefevre, who are tied at 2 under with Kentucky’s Alex Goff.

Arkansas sophomore John Daly was tied with five others at even par.

The Arkansas men’s ‘B’ team was tied for fourth place with No. 3 Washington at 8-over par, three shots behind Kentucky.

On the women’s side, Arkansas senior Miriam Ayora shot a 2-under to tie North Carolina State’s Lauren Olivares Leon in third, while freshman Abbey Schutte tied for fifth at 1-under with Mississippi State’s Julia Lopez Ramirez.

The 54-hole event with free admission is scheduled to continue the next two days at 8:45 a.m. with coverage on the Golf Channel between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. each day.

For the women, No. 5 South Carolina and Washington were tied at 7-over to round out the top five, followed by North Carolina State (+13), Clemson (+15), North Texas (+16), Kentucky (+23) and Minnesota (+24).

On the men’s side, Clemson was at 9-over and Minnesota and North Carolina State were at 11-over and within striking distance, followed by South Carolina (+14) and North Texas (+29).