ERIE — Loveland's Lauren Lehigh audibly willed the ball into the first two holes, then practiced her fist pump to celebrate putts from way downtown.
"That was a big start. They weren't short putts, either," Lehigh said. "I think the first one was 25 feet and the second one was over 40 feet. They were good strokes and the hole was looking really big for me."
Lehigh started the day hot and rode the momentum to the top of the leaderboard after the first day of the Class 4A girls golf state championships.
And her teammates aren't too far behind.
Aili Bundy (+6) and Hannah Doran (+10) ended the day in 5th and tied for 8th.
Bundy had back-to-back birdies on Holes 17 and 18 to charge up the leaderboard and into fifth place.
"I know that's going to help our team total a lot," Lehigh said. "That's our big goal for the seniors this year is to make sure that we get that team title under wraps and we can all go home state champions."
Loveland is well ahead in the team race with a +17. The next closest team, Windsor, ended the day +35. Golden and Vista Peak are tied for third with a +39.
Windsor's Jessica Zapf (+5) paced the Wizards playing alongside Lehigh.
Zapf fell off with four bogies and one double-bogie on the back side.
Defending champion Colorado Academy's move to 3A left a void and Loveland is looking to fill it.
Loveland finished tied for 8th in 5A last year.
Lehigh ran into trouble on both sides, but was able to respond with birdies to get her back into it. She bogied Hole 14 to fall to +1, then came right back to even on Hole 15.
"I know I could have been a lot better," Lehigh said. "I left a couple puts out. I had a couple three-putts, but overall I felt pretty good about the round."
Lehigh's mentality for the day was simple: don't force it.
"Fairways and greens. I figured even par was going to be close to the top of the leaderboard," Lehigh said. "If somebody beats that, then they played a great round and I have to respect that. Just making sure that I got onto those greens and made good putts and just stayed focused."
For the majority of the day, Golden's Sydney Prey was sticking right with Lehigh, but then double-bogied Holes 2 and 6. Prey ended three-over-par, tied with Glenwood Springs' Lauren Murphy.
Murphy missed a par put on the 18th hole that dropped her into a tie with Prey.
"Such a bummer," Murphy said. "I was pretty happy with my putting today except for that one."
Murphy and Prey are within reach of Lehigh for tomorrow's play.
"I feel like that was a pretty solid round, but I'm hoping to play better tomorrow," Murphy said. "I think I was able to recover well out of trouble. I also think I was able to close the deal with chipping and putting. I'm going to try and improve my driving accuracy. It was kind of all over the map."
Lehigh will try to keep pace in the second round at Colorado National tomorrow.
"Same thing, just fairways and greens," Lehigh said. "Make those pars. Take the birdies as they come, but definitely go after the pars."
Lehigh finished tied for 9th in 5A last year.
Sample played alongside Lehigh in her pairing, and ended up +7, good for seventh on the leaderboard.
The trio of Lehigh, Prey and Sample made all-state in 2016.