TUCSON, Ariz.-The second-ranked Arizona women's golf team claimed the championship at its lone home tournament, the Wildcat Invitational, by shooting a final round of 292 today at The Raven Golf Club at Sabino Springs. Arizona out-dueled No. 1 Duke and No. 5 Stanford to earn the title.
"It's always nice to win, but it's extra special to win in front of your hometown fans," Arizona head coach Greg Allen said. "We had some good support out there."
Stanford finished in second place after carding the low round of the week on Wednesday with a 284 to wrap up the tournament with a total of 883 (+19). Top-ranked Duke had trailed Arizona closely throughout the tournament, but closed action in third place with a three day total of 24-over-par 888.
Allen's squad held a four-stroke lead entering Wednesday's final round, but still needed a strong performance down the stretch to claim the title. With only nine holes remaining, the Wildcats were 15-over-par for the tournament which left them three shots back of the top-ranked Blue Devils. However, Arizona shot four-under-par as a team on the final nine holes to surge ahead of Duke as it combined to shoot 12-over-par on the back nine.
"The thing we've been talking about all year is finishing strong," Allen said. "And we definitely did that today."
Leading the late charge for Arizona was stellar freshman Lorena Ochoa, who earned medalist honors for the third time in her young career. The Wildcat Invitational also marks the fifth consecutive tournament where she has finished in first or second place. Ochoa completed the tournament with a total of 213 (-3) which included a final round of two-under-par 70.
Ochoa, like the entire Arizona team, needed a late push down the stretch to position herself in first place. With only 13 holes to play, the freshman from Guadalajara, Mexico trailed Duke's Candy Hannemann by six strokes. Ochoa proceeded to shoot birdies on two of the last six holes, one of which included sinking a 25-foot putt on the 16th hole, to gain a tie with Hannemann after 54 holes.
Hannemann, ranked No. 6 by the College Golf Foundation and No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, parred the 18th hole while Ochoa, the nation's top-ranked golfer in both the College Golf Foundation poll and the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, birdied the hole in a sudden death playoff for the individual title.
Also playing a large part in the Wildcats' success this week was Arizona's other standout freshman Natalie Gulbis. Named Golf World Collegiate Player of the Week on Wednesday, Gulbis finished in fifth place with a three-day total of 216 (E). The freshman from Sacramento, Calif., shot even par each day of the tournament.
"We've played in six stroke-play events this year and our freshman have won four of those tournaments," Allen said. "We've depended on our freshmen all year for a lot of leadership that most freshmen aren't expected to provide."
Sophomore Anne Lee finished the tournament tied for eighth place with a three-round total of 219 (+3). Lee's previous high finish was a tie for 26th place at last year's Pac-10 Conference Championships.
"We got a great effort out of Anne Lee today, and all week for that matter. She came out and gave us three great rounds," Allen commented.
Arizona junior Cristina Baena tied for 31st place at 13-over-par 229, while sophomore Laura Myerscough tied for 52nd place with a tournament total of 233 (+17).
The Wildcats are out of action for over a month until March 27 when they travel to the Rainbow Wahine Inivtational in Honolulu, Hawaii. Arizona will seek its third consecutive title and fifth of the season, as well as its third consecutive Rainbow Wahine Invitational championship.
Place School Score 1 ARIZONA 293-290-292=875 2 Stanford 298-301-284=883 3 Duke 294-293-301=888 4 Southern California 295-299-298=892 5 New Mexico State 302-300-297=899 Place Golfer School Score 1 Lorena Ochoa ARIZONA 72-71-70=213 (-3)# 2 Candy Hannemann Duke 71-69-73=213 (-3) T3 Candie Kung Southern Cal 72-72-71=215 (-1) Steph Keever Stanford 76-74-65=215 (-1) 5 Natalie Gulbis ARIZONA 72-72-72=216 (E) Place Arizona Golfer Score 1 Lorena Ochoa 72-71-70=213 (-3) 5 Natalie Gulbis 72-72-72=216 (E) T8 Anne Lee 73-74-72=219 (+3) T31 Cristina Baena 76-75-78=229 (+13) T29 Laura Myerscough 79-73-81=233 (+17) T77 Christelle Cuzon* 81-79-85=245 (+29) T79 Cathie Williamson* 82-78-86=246 (+30) 89 Christina Monteiro* 86-86-84=256 (+40) * competing as individuals # won in sudden-death playoff