Erica Lautensack did Monday what defending champions are supposed to do in the 2014 Fort Worth Junior Girls Championship.
Lautensack, who just graduated from Arlington High and will play for Stephen F. Austin in the fall, rode two back-nine birdies and a strengthened short game to the first-round lead at Glen Garden Country Club.
Despite winning last year’s tournament by 15 shots, Lautensack’s round of 73 was just one shot clear of Kyong Kim and Tarin Leong.
Thirty players with scores of 85 or better after the first round advanced to the second round Tuesday at Ridglea Country Club’s Family Course, and the field will be divided into championship and first flights after the round’s conclusion.
The final round will be at River Crest Country Club on Wednesday.
Lautensack said it was a different overall experience this year.
“Not a lot of players get to come back and say they’re a defending champion,” she said. “For me it was exciting, and I’ve been looking forward to it. I figured it was going to be a little closer this time around.”
Lautensack shot 70 in last year’s first round but said she figures her first round total was exactly what she wanted to see: improved play around the greens and patience that comes with gearing her game for college golf.
“I played really well last year, but I needed to work more on putting and the short game,” she said. “My full swing has always been pretty good, but I needed to work on getting up and down more.”
Lautensack showed flashes of her form from last year, wedging her second shot from 100 yards to about 15 feet on No. 12.
She made the birdie try in the first of two efforts, the second coming when she pitched her third shot on the par-5 13th to within a foot for another.
Lautensack said that kind of play is what can make her game stronger as the fall approaches.
“I’m going to be playing longer courses, and just naturally you’re going to miss more greens,” she said. “I’ve been working on getting up and down in these kinds of situations, and that really helped me today. I didn’t swing as well as I probably did last year.”
Lautensack will try to become the first player since Stephanie Dukes in 1998 and 1999 to defend her title successfully.
“I needed to be sharp and get better,” she said. “This tournament is a lot of fun, and I have a lot of friends playing in it. And it’s a great way to finish things off before college.”