Sept. 24, 2009
Teeing Off: The Arizona women’s golf team will make its 23rd appearance at the NCAA Championships this week as the Wildcats play 72 holes of competition against a field of 23 other teams from around the nation. The Wildcats will be looking to capture its third national championship and first since the 2000 season.
About the Course: The Mason Rudolph Championships will once again be hosted by Vanderbilt University at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn. The course is set up as a par-72, 6,172-yard layout. Tee times are fixed on holes one and ten at 8:00am (CST) on Friday and Saturday while play starts 30 minutes earlier on Sunday morning.
Paired Up: The tournament boasts 12 teams ranked in the top 25 of the first GolfWorld/NGCA Top 25 rankings. With the Wildcats checking in at #17, the field also includes Arizona State (#1), USC (#2), UCLA (#3), Oklahoma State (#4), Alabama (#7), Auburn (#8), Virginia (#9), Duke (#10), LSU (#11), Georgia (#14), Vanderbilt (#21) and Stanford (#22) along with Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Tulane.
Tournament History: Arizona will be looking for its first team championship at the ninth staging of the Mason Rudolph Championships. The best showing for the Wildcats in their previous visits to the Volunteer State was a runner-up finish in 2002 when the Cats were only bested by the tournament hosts. Alison Walshe (2006) and Erica Blasberg (2003) each captured individual honors during their playing days while Blasberg also captured second place in 2002. Last season, the Wildcats finished 11th with Brittany Benvenuto leading the way with a share of 23rd place at 5-over par thanks to a final-round score of 3-under 69.
Matched Up: The Wildcats will be one of the first teams on the course on Friday morning. Junior Alejandra Llaneza will play the first shot of the season for Arizona at approximately 8:13 a.m. (CT) with the Cats pairing up with Alabama and Virginia. The rest of the team will follow in nine-minute intervals in reverse order. Cats in the Polls: The Wildcats start the 2009-10 season ranked #17 in the initial Golf World/NGCA Coaches Poll, released on September 3. The Cats earned 342 points in the voting, sliding one spot from its 16th place finish at the 2009 NCAA Championships. The Cats are the fourth of six Pac-10 teams to appear in the rankings, joining top-ranked Arizona State, #2 USC, #3 UCLA, #19 California and #22 Stanford.
Repeat Performance: Of the eight regular season events the Wildcats have scheduled, five of them are tournaments in which the team participated last season. The only change to that grouping is that the Northwestern Invitational in October will be played on a different course than in 2008.
Fresh Faces: Arizona has welcomed three new players to its roster this season after the departure of seniors Marisa Smith, Brooke Schneider and Amanda Wilson. Cracking the top five for her first-ever collegiate event was newcomer Kyndall Ardoin, a Louisiana native who was a 2007 ROLEX junior all-American at Glenbrook High. Joining her in the freshman class is a pair of foreign players in Sherlyn Popelka and Marie Tschida. Popelka, who hails from Switzerland, was a member of the European team this past August at the Junior Solheim Cup, where she won 2-of-3 matches. Tschida is originally from Germany, but schooled in Mallorca, Spain while competing on the German junior national team. She also boasts an impressive junior resume, winning three German junior titles.
Head Coach Shelly Haywood: Beginning her third season as the head coach and sixth season overall is Shelly Haywood, a former two-time Big West selection at New Mexico State. Haywood is a member of the LPGA, the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Committee and an honorary member of the Arizona Golf Association’s Board of Governors. Haywood was named the LPGA National Coach of the Year in October 2005. She has coached five all-Americans and ten all-Pac-10 performers since coming to the U of A.
Coaches Corner: “I think this is going to be a good year for us and I expect Margarita (Ramos) to step up and be one of the leaders of this team. She has worked very hard on her game and played well this summer. I really feel like we have a very athletic team going to Nashville this weekend and I’m expecting great things from us. We have worked hard on our games and have had some great team building heading into this week. All of the girls are on the same page and we are ready to show everyone that Arizona is ready to win.”
Fine Fall: If the Wildcats are to climb up the polls and assert themselves as one of the elite teams in the NCAA this season, a similar start to the season as 2008 would not be the worst thing for the team. The Cats started the 2008 campaign with an opening round team total of 297 at the Mason Rudolph Championships and ended up shooting its best round of the season with a 282 to open the Stanford Women’s Intercollegiate three weeks later. The Cats averaged a team score of 297 in the Fall, a score it posted on three different occasions.
More From The Coach: “I’m really excited about this season. This is the deepest we have ever been by far and this is my sixth season. We’ve got literally everybody fighting for those five spots. Qualifying has been going very well and everyone on the team is very competitive. I think our girls are as talented as anyone that we play against during the season. It’s just overall those other teams are a little more consistent. I would put our girls up against anybody right now, head-to-head, and I would like our chances. If you look back at the success of Arizona, the years that they won national championships and were ranked number one, they were deep. They all fed off of each other and hated to get beat by each other. In the end, that’s what breeds competition and makes you get better. This is probably the most prepared we have been because they all played summer golf and high level tournament golf. I think that will make a big difference.”