Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Daphne Parker strikes a putt in the first round of the Utah Women's State Amateur at Hill Air Force Base.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — For someone who hasn't played much golf recently, Daphne Parker is in pretty good position to defend her Utah Women's State Amateur golf championship.

Parker (formerly Daphne Vines) began the 54-hole event at Hubbard Golf Course at Hill Air Force Base with a 4-under par 68 on Monday, good for a four-shot lead over five others. Her round included two bogeys and six birdies. Four of those birdies came on the back nine, where she finished her round with five straight one-putt greens.

"I putted really well today," Parker said. "I made some long ones and just hit a lot of good putts."

Monday's round was Parker's first since she married in June and moved to Kentucky, where her husband, Matt, will attend dental school. She competed the past two years for BYU but has since transferred to the University of Louisville. She says this will likely be her last time competing in Utah's top women's golf event.

"I came back this year because I wanted to defend, but I don't think I'll want to travel back next year," Parker said.

Realistically, if Parker continues to make birdies like she did on Monday, she'll be tough to catch. However, there are plenty of competitors, with some fairly impressive resumes, close by should she stumble.

Tied at even-par 72 are Camille Gardner, Nicole (Newren) Chandler, Lachell Poffenberger, Echo Thatcher and Sadie Palmer. Five back, at 73, are Karen Killpack and Emily Copier. Shooting a first-round 74 were Parker's sister younger Kelsey Vines, Stephanie Belnap, Sierene Blair and Kari Lawrence. Still in the hunt, at 75, are Michelle Landers, Sue Nyus and Tenille Slack.

Chandler, Poffenberger, Belnap, Nyus and Slack are all former champions.

"I'm happy with my round today and I like my position, but I'm going to have to keep playing well," Parker said.

Gardner, Parker's former teammate at BYU, turned the front side at 38 when she made a double at No. 4. She finished strong and closed the gap on Parker, however, with birdies on No. 16 and No. 17, before missing a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th.

"I hit a bad putt. I pushed it a little bit. And I really wanted to finish with another birdie," Gardner said.

Poffenberger began her round with a 2-over 38 on the front side after making a double-bogey seven on the par-5 eighth. But she got it back to even with three back-nine birdies for a closing 34.

Chandler struggled early but got herself back in contention when she rolled in a tricky 15-foot birdie on her final hole Monday.

Thatcher and Palmer are actually competing in the tournament's first flight but are still eligible to win the overall championship.

The top players went out Monday before 8 a.m. But tournament officials will shuffle up tee times a little bit today, sending the first-flight competitors out at 9:40 a.m. and the championship flight players at 10:40 a.m.

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