Daffinrud in lead after record-tying performance

KAPALUA – Tonje Daffinrud holds “a few” course records in her native Norway, but Tuesday’s 7-under-par 65 stroll around the Kapalua Bay Course is a lifetime best. The University of Denver junior vaulted from a tie for 10th place at the beginning of the day to the lead at the Anuenue Spring Break Classic women’s golf tournament.

Daffinrud’s 7-under total of 137 was one stroke better than first-round co-leader Grace Na of Pepperdine, who had a 71. Arizona State’s Noemi Jimenez (74), who was tied with Na after 18 holes, was at 141, along with Washington’s Charlotte Thomas (69).

Daffinrud tied the women’s Bay Course record set in 1999 by former Lahainaluna High School and University of Hawaii golfer Dawn Kaneshiro, currently an employee at the course.

“It really is (a lifetime round), my personal best was minus-6 before today, so I just felt really, really good all day,” Daffinrud said after her bogey-free day. “I just attacked every pin and made a lot of putts, so it was a lot of fun.”

Washington led the team race at 3-under 573 after a 2-under 286 on Tuesday. UCLA (283) was five strokes back, and Pepperdine (296) trailed by eight.

“I actually have a few (course records) back home, but I don’t have any records outside of Norway,” said Daffinrud, who had five birdies on holes 1-6. “So this is really exciting for me.”

When the Bay Course hosted the Kapalua LPGA Classic in 2008, the best round was a 66 by Stacy Lewis.

Daffinrud is ranked 63rd in the nation by Golfstat.com. Jimenez is the highest-ranked player in the field, at No. 6, and three others are in the top 14.

“I have won once before, but I have never won a tournament with this good of a field,” Daffinrud said.

Oregon’s Cassy Isagawa, a 2011 Baldwin High School graduate, was tied for 17th after a second straight 73 – she played her final two holes at 3 over.

With wind and rain in today’s forecast, Isagawa said the individual crown is within reach.

“Absolutely, it is up for grabs still, everyone is still bunched up in that top area,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Tulsa’s Kristina Merkle, a two-time state champion while at Moanalua, was tied for 29th at 148.

“I mean, it is golf, anything is possible,” Merkle said. “Everyone has got a chance out here, so you never know.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com