May 7, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After enduring a two hour and 12 minute weather delay, the second-ranked and top-seeded UCLA Bruins held off hard-charging LSU and the afternoon wave on Saturday for a coast-to-coast victory by four shots over the Tigers (894, +30) at the NCAA Central Regional hosted by the University of Notre Dame at the Warren Golf Course. The Bruins finished with a three-day score of 890 (+26). UCLA's Stephanie Kono shared medalist honors with LSU's Megan McChrystal, finishing two-over par (218) for the tournament.
"I am proud of the girls," said UCLA head coach Carrie Forsyth. "This is a tough course, but I think we played it really well. I think all of the girls had times where they were excellent. We didn't quite put it all together, but we still won, and that's pretty neat, but we can do better. It was tough out there today, with a few girls missing putts, but overall it's great to have come here and not have to deal with a lot of stress."
Entering the final round six over par, Kono put together the round of the tournament, finishing four under par (68) on the day. After making the turn at one under (35), the junior caught fire on the back nine with four birdies on the final six holes along with only one bogey.
"That was really awesome," stated Forsyth. "She has been on the verge lately of shooting some good golf, and I had actually just been talking to my sister about how we needed someone to really take us low on a round, and then (Stephanie) shot a 68 and I was like 'OK, there we go.'"
LSU put together the third-best round of the day at eight over (296) to hold onto second by three shots over Minnesota, who posted an 11-over par final round to end the tournament 33-over par (897). McChrystal got off to a torrid start on the day, birdying five of the opening six holes to help her finish the front nine at 33 (-3). She gave two shots back on the final nine holes to conclude her third round one under (71).
"This tournament has been a building block for us," remarked LSU head coach Karen Bahnsen. "We had a great fall, and then in the middle we weren't playing our best golf, but you have your ups-and-downs, and I feel like our team is really on the rise and we have really good form. We have to go home to final exams, which is tough, but the girls are going to do that and keep practicing. I really love that golf course at Texas A&M. We did really well there in the preview, and I am excited and can't wait to get back and attack that golf course."
The Golden Gophers, meanwhile, return to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1989 after their third place finish and the host Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who finished fifth (901, +37) make the 24-team championship field for the first time in the program's 23-year history.
"It's just great," stated Minnesota head coach John Harris. "The team played well and I am so proud of them. They have played great these past three days, and I knew they had this in them. I'm not sure they thought they had it in them, but they played great. We have tried to keep (our expectations) pretty guarded and close to the vest, but this is rare air for us and they played great. Hopefully they will realize that they are a great team that played well, and also recognize that this course fit our game perfectly."
"This has been our goal every year since I got here five years ago, and the goal hasn't changed, and it is exciting to have it finally happen," said Notre Dame head coach Susan Holt. "Coming into this tournament, there were a lot of unknowns. At regional's there are so many good teams, and with hosting there are many more distractions and expectations, and I think the team did a great job handling everything. In the next week, the team needs to hit the books and study hard since they have finals coming up, and there will be a lot of one-on-one practicing going on between now and when we head to (College Station) Texas, but I'm not at all worried. I believe they'll get it done, and I'm looking forward to it."
Fourth-place Arkansas ended the tournament with the best team round of the weekend, carding a final round 289 (+1). Emma Lavy led the way for the Razorbacks, matching teammate Emily Tubert's score of 69 (-3) on Friday, with an identical three-under par mark on Saturday.
"This has been a great championship golf course, and after the first day we were kind of behind the eight ball a bit," explained Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. "But this group has persevered all year long, and I actually had a calm in knowing that this would be our day, and they went out and did exactly what they needed to do in probably some of the most stressful golf conditions you could have - trying to get in the national championship. I am so proud of this group; we have done it as a team all year long, and we look forward to heading to College Station for the NCAA Championships and a (shot at a) title."
Ohio State (905, +41), Stanford (908, +44) and Wake Forest (909, +45) rounded out the eight qualifying team in sixth through eighth, respectively. With the race for the eighth spot all tied up between Wake Forest and Duke with only two groups left to finish, the Demon Deacons pulled away for a four-shot decision over the Blue Devils for the final qualifying spot.
"I'm really proud of (my team)," stated Wake Forest assistant coach Robin Walton. "To come out of that afternoon wave and get the eighth spot was a great performance by the team. We were sweating it out with the rain delay. We thought we may get washed out with it, but the girls were focused and ready to play. I could tell that they had it in them. Our biggest opponent was time and the rain delay, but they pulled it out. I think today was a great springboard. Anytime you can go out and accomplish something and learn that you can get something done, it's great for your mental game and I hope we can springboard off this to a good finish."
Despite not qualifying as a team, Duke's Lindy Duncan earned one of the two individual qualifying bids, finishing the tournament at six over par (222). She ended her tournament with a final round 75 (+3) to secure her spot at the NCAA Championship.
"I'm really proud," said Duncan. "I fought hard this week. It was not an easy week, and I really tried to stay patient. Today really wasn't the back nine that I hoped for and it was a tough day, but I am really thankful to be going to (the NCAA Championship)."
The final individual spot came down to a playoff between Chattanooga's Maria Juliana Loza and Tulane's Maribel Lopez Porras. With the daylight fading away, the Green Wave sophomore needed only one hole to claim her spot at the Championship, carding a par on the par-5 10th hole, while Loza finished with a bogey to conclude her tournament.
"I never expected to have to play again today (after the morning wave) when I finished and we didn't qualify as a team, but then they told me that maybe I had a chance at (advancing) as an individual," remarked Lopez Porras. "It was tough with all of the really good teams and players here."
All qualifying teams and individuals now turn their attention to the College Station, Texas, and the Traditions Golf Club for the 2011 NCAA Championships taking place May 17-20.