YOUNGSVILLE — Talk of what Archbishop Hannan freshman Abbey Daniel was doing in the opening round of the LHSAA girls state golf championship spread rapidly throughout Les Vieux Chenes golf course.
Daniel, who finished as the Division II runner up as an eighth-grader last year, torched the course for a 5-under 67 in the first round.
“My golf game has progressed a lot since last year, I’m a lot more consistent. My higher rounds are lower now, and my lower rounds are that,” Daniel said, referring to her 67.
Daniel was the only player to card a round in the 60s, but there’s a familiar face lurking four strokes back.
East Iberville’s Julia Johnson, a junior who has won three consecutive Division II championships, fired a 1-under 71 to card the only other below par round on the par-72 course.
The two have developed a close friendship on the junior golf circuit, which was evident on the course as they consistently congratulated each other after well-struck shots.
“When she’s over a birdie putt, I’m not hoping she misses it,” Johnson said. “I hope she makes it or I make a birdie on top of it. There’s never any animosity. I’m always rooting for her to make a birdie putt. Yes, I want to win, but I want to beat her at her best.”
Daniel was at her very best Wednesday.
She hit 17 greens in regulation. When her tee shot landed up against a tree root to the right of the fairway on No. 18, it was the first time she’d missed a fairway. She putted well on top of that, something a lot of players struggled with Wednesday.
“It was a good day,” Daniel said.
Johnson, who shot a 64 at the regional tournament, wasn’t quite as pleased with her individual performance.
But she finished with a birdie on the par 3 No. 17 after a beautiful tee shot landed within 5 feet of the pin and an even par on the long par 4 No. 18 to give her some momentum heading into the final round.
“I got a little deflated throughout those middle holes,” Johnson said. “It’s better to finish well than start well, I always say that. Great finishes feel good, dinner will feel better tonight.”
Junior Mary Frances Chauvin of Hammond Magnet, the reigning Division I champion, finished the first round with a 5-over 77, one stroke back of the lead. Co-leaders, Neville’s Aoife O’Donavan and Sulphur’s Brook Tyree, shot 76s.
Chauvin finished the first round at even par, but struggled to keep her round in check over the final nine holes.
“I started having to save par, instead of the first nine where I was trying to make birdie and making par easily. I had to keep working,” Chauvin said. “The back nine was really frustrating, but that’s golf. Hopefully tomorrow I can keep it even the whole time.”
Defending Division II team champion Notre Dame got off to a good start in its title defense, getting an 82 from Cassidy Goff and an 85 from Emily Lucas to take a nine -stroke lead into the final round. Both Goff and Lucas competed last season for the Pioneers state championship team.
Notre Dame shot a 167, while Academy of Sacred Heart carded 176. ASH’s Cassidy Lambert is fourth with an 81.