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McMullin holds off youth in first round

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FARMINGTON — While most of the pre-tournament attention was centered on the college-age golfers and teenage sensations, one of the "older" ones slipped almost unnoticed into the first-round lead at the annual Utah Women's Amateur Monday at Oakridge Country Club.

Not that Julie McMullin is old, by any means, at just 33 years of age. It's just that she's a decade older than most of her main competition this week. The Park City property management company owner fired a one-over par 73 to grab the lead in the 54-hole tournament that runs through Wednesday.

"No, I'm not surprised," she said when asked about taking the first-round lead. "I felt good about my game coming in and I'm happy the way I played today."

One stroke back at 74 are a couple of Weber State golfers who just completed their college careers, defending champion Tenille Howe and Sally (Bingham) Estepp. Another stroke back at 75 are 18-year-olds Annie Thurman, who has a scholarship at Oklahoma State next year and Natalie Newren, who will be playing for BYU in the fall.

Still in contention at 76 are BYU golfer Adrianne (Gibby) Olson and four-time champion Terry (Norman) Hansen, while former champ Lachell Poffenberger and Park City's Wallace Hamerton both came in with 77s.

"It was an up-and-down day," said McMullin, who made five birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey to go along with eight pars. "This was the best I've ever played at Oakridge."

McMullin got off to a slow start with a double at No. 3, but recovered nicely with a four-birdie stretch from 11 to 14 that included a chip-in from 30 feet at No. 12 and a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 13. However, she wasn't happy with her finish that included a par at the par-5 16th and bogeys at 17 and 18.

The 23-year-old Howe said she didn't feel any pressure as the defending champion Monday during a round in which she made just one birdie and three bogeys.

"I focused on this tournament and not last year," she said. "I felt good today and really calm and relaxed."

Estepp got off to a slow start with bogeys at 1, 2 and 4, before settling down to play 1-under the rest of the way. She's been concentrating on summer school this summer and doesn't feel her game is in top form after taking a month off from golf.

Thurman, who has the lowest handicap of any golfer in the field, was not happy with her iron play Monday, but has high hopes for the rest of the week.

"I struggled today and every time I'd make a birdie, I'd offset it with a bogey," she said. "But as bad as I swung the club today, I'm satisfied with my score. I think it will all come together."

Eileen Rich leads the second flight with an 80, while Tamra Hansen-Moore leads third flight with a 78. The fourth flight leader is Kaye Hart at 87, while Michele Tippets leads the fifth flight with an 89.

E-MAIL: sor@desnews.com