NASHPORT, Ohio -- Jenna Hague and Autumn Duke capped Ball State's opening day at the Mid-American Conference Championships with key birdies at the 18th hole Friday to solidify the Cardinals' second-place position through the tournament's first round.
Hague stood over a slippery downhill putt on Longaberger Golf Club's final hole in the last group of the afternoon. Golfers in two of the previous groups had knocked similar putts all the way off the front of the green. But Hague managed to cozy her 20-footer down the hill and into the center of the cup.
It was one of six birdies on the day for the tournament's defending medalist and gave her the lowest score of the opening day at even-par 72. It also capped Ball State's round of 308 (+20) to put the Cardinals in second place on the team leaderboard. Ball State trails leader Kent State by five shots with 36 holes remaining.
“Preparing for our conference tournament is highlight of our year," Ball State coach Katherine Mowat said. "You have to peak at the right time, and I think we have been on an upswing for a majority of this season. I feel like we're at a perfect place right now to get the job done this weekend.”
Three groups ahead of Hague, it was Duke who closed with a birdie of her own after sticking her approach shot to within five feet on the 18th hole. She sank the putt that followed to polish off a steady round of 3-over par 75, good for third place by herself.
Duke is three shots back of Hague and two behind second-place Erin Hawe of Kent State. The Cardinals and Golden Flashes occupy the top four spots on the individual leaderboard.
Ball State also counted an 80 from Zoe Camus and an 81 from Meghan Perry in Friday's team total. Camus is tied for 19th individually in the field of 45 golfers. Perry, who birdied three straight holes at one point, fought through an up-and-down round and is tied for 23rd.
Sarah Westaway, the reigning MAC Golfer of the Week, was the Cardinals' fifth score on the day with a round of 83.
Ball State concluded play Friday four shots ahead of third-place Toledo, which posted an opening round 312. Eastern Michigan (318) is fourth and Akron (321) fifth in the field of nine teams.
The action continues with the second round Saturday and the final round Sunday at Longaberger with the league's automatic bid into the NCAA postseason on the line. Live scoring for the entire event is available at golfstat.com.