By VINCE PELUSO
Geneva junior Danielle Nicholson had a less-than-ideal start to her first round at the Division I state championship at Ohio State’s Gray Course on Friday.
Through four holes, Nicholson was 5-over par.
However, she settled in and played the remaining 14 holes at 2-over to shoot a 77, leaving her six shots behind Erin Harper of Columbus Waterson.
“She was just able to grind it out,” Geneva coach Rob DiPofi said. “She stayed resilient and focused, she could’ve folded after first four holes, I’m proud of her effort, I think it bodes well going into tomorrow. All things considered, she represented our area and school as best she could. I thought she did a nice job.”
Nicholson, starting off the back nine on the 10th hole, doubled the hole after she missed the fairway and skulled a chip over the green leading to the double bogey.
She pulled a hybrid off the 11th tee leading to a bogey and followed with missed fairways and bogies off the following two holes.
“My hybrid was definitely a cause of frustration early on,” Nicholson said. “I knew those first four holes, especially 10 and 11, were the toughest. My dad even told me if I could escape at plus-2, that’s about what you can expect from the field.
“Luckily, I was able to put it behind me the rest of the round.”
DiPofi said he was impressed with how Nicholson battled back from the rough start.
“I thought she did an exceptional job (overcoming that start), when she didn’t the greens she was able to chip on and make saves, on 17 and 16 she chipped on and one-putted for par,” he said. “On a day where you thought maybe there might be some decent scores, the conditions ended up tough. It was windy, the greens were difficult and fast. The course didn’t render itself to anything really ridiculous, 71 is pretty impressive.”
The 2011 Division I state champion said she expected there would be some sub-70 scores, but the conditions didn’t allow for any of that, leaving Nicholson only six back with 18 holes to play.
“Well, luckily I didn’t shoot myself out of the tournament,” she said. “I thought there was a 67-68 out there. We weren’t getting any roll off the tee. The rough was thick and the greens were faster than yesterday. There’s a lot of struggling players out there.”
Nicholson tees off on the first hole at 9:48 a.m. today and will play with Harper and senior Molly Skapik of Miamisburg, who shot a 75.
The Eagles junior said she likes the idea of playing with two players who are in front of her.
“It is nice to play with two people I know I have to beat to win the tournament,” she said. “I know in order to win, I have to beat 17. I’m going to need to shoot in the 60s. The conditions will be difficult, so there’s probably not going to be a lot of low scores.”
Nicholson is no stranger to coming back to win tournaments, having won her first state championship coming from behind.
“Of course, every day is a new day, but I do have experience coming back in to win in several tournaments,” she said. “It’s not a big deal for me to be in this position. I would’ve liked to have shot a better score, but now I know I have to shoot a good score (today).”