TUCSON, Ariz. ?- The Arizona women’s golf team fell one shot short of beating the defending national champions UCLA today at their annual home tournament, the Wildcat Invitational. After the final 18 holes on Tuesday, Arizona finished in second place on their home course Arizona National.
The Wildcats shot a 13-over-par 865 to stand in second behind tournament champion UCLA after the Bruins shot a 12-under-par 864. Tennessee (876) and Arizona State (877) finished in third and fourth, respectively. Pepperdine rounded out the top-five after shooting at 31-over-par 883.
“This is a huge week for the U of A women’s golf program, a huge step, after not playing well here last two years,” Head Coach Greg Allen said. “We really had some players step up for us. Whitney [Welch] and Lani [Elston] played great ?- their best tournaments ever as Wildcats. We just have a lot of positives to take out of this week and to look forward to the rest of the season. I told them they have to get used to winning golf tournaments because we are going to be in that position for the rest of the year. We came up one shot short. I know those girls are going to be beating themselves up tonight because they will be thinking about one putt they could have made, but they can’t do that.”
Individually, junior Lani Elston shot her collegiate lowest tournament. Elston finished the tournament tied for third with Tennessee’s Violeta Retamoza at 212 (-1).
“This is the lowest score since my AJGA and high school tournament,” she said. “I’m Very happy, just overwhelmed right now. It’s just exciting to finally come through in a tournament. I gave it my best from start to finish. So did my teammates. We all came in together. It wasn’t just me, it was everyone. We were all feeding off each other.”
Junior Whitney Welch also notched her collegiate low-tournament. Welch finished tied with Oklahoma State’s Annie Thurman in fifth at 2-over-par 215.
“Usually, year after year I struggle at this time,” Welch said. “I play well in the fall and for some reason this tournament gets me, I don’t know if it’s that I don’t feel prepared or what. I just need to take advantage of coming out here and playing a bunch of golf and being prepared. I think this is the most prepared I’ve been for a tournament. So it’s nice to see it pay off. I know I was going to hit the shots I hit, I could have made some more shots that would have been really fun.”
Junior Cassandra Kirkland tied for 13th with Pepperdine’s Eileen Vargas at 220 (+7). Senior Mar Garcia shot a season low-tournament of 221 to tie for 15th. Garcia carded a 71 (E) in both the second and the final rounds. Senior Miriam Kraschinski tied for 24th at 11-over-par 224.
Competing as individuals for Arizona, sophomore Rachel Gavin shot her collegiate low-tournament, 233 (+20) to tie for in 44th. Gavin tied her career low round in the second-round with a 75 (+4). Senior Katie Christy finished tied for 65th with Northern Arizona’s Stephaine Moore after carding 245 (+32).
The Wildcats will tee off next in the UNLV Spring Invitational March 14-16 in Henderson, Nev. The tournament will be contested at Black Mountain Golf and Country Club.