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With several of Utah's top amateurs sitting out the Women's State Amateur this year, defending champion Stephanie Brockbank Belnap was a heavy favorite going into the 54-hole tournament at Wolf Creek GC.

She showed why in Monday's opening round by shooting a 2-under par 72 to take a comfortable 7-shot lead over Dot Dempsey. Another stroke back at 80 are two golfers, Aimee Aardema and Sharon Royce.The second round started Tuesday morning and the tourney concludes Wednesday with the leaders teeing off at 10 a.m.

Belnap, a senior-to-be at BYU, obviously wants to defend her title successfully, but she was a little disappointed that top competitors such as Skyli Yamada, Lachell Simmons and Terry Norman Hansen didn't enter this year's tourney.

Sandy's Yamada was planning to play until she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur this week.Simmons, a teacher at West High, had to conduct soccer tryouts this week, while Hansen preferred to attend to her duties as a young mother.

"I miss that Lachell and Terry aren't here," said Belnap. "The more competition the better."

There wasn't much competition Monday in the Championship Flight, where the second best score was an 81 by Sharon Probst Briggs. Belnap's three closest pursuers were in the First Flight, which supposedly is for 10 handicaps and higher.

Aardema, a sophomore-to-be on the Weber State golf team, was surprised not to be among the 10 golfers in Championship Flight because she usually plays to a 6 handicap.

Even though she was placed in the First Flight, Aardema's still going for the State Am title.

"I'm not here to get money (merchandise)," she said. "I'm here to compete for low gross score."

Belnap had a goal of "no three-putts and no doubles" before her round. She ended up with a pair of three-putts, including one that led to a double-bogey. However, she came up with six birdies, which kept her under par for the day on the tough Wolf Creek layout.

"I'm happy with that score," she said. "I putted pretty well and played smart today. I played conservative and kept the ball below the hole."

Even though she looks like a shoo-in for another title, Belnap isn't going to get overconfident.

"A (seven-stroke) lead doesn't mean anything if I shoot 95 tomorrow."

Flight leaders included Naomi Griffith (85) in Second Flight, Jeanne Deschepper (93) in Third Flight and Gretchen Alvard (98) in Fourth Flight.