Feb. 19, 2010
Teeing Off: The Wildcats return to tournament play after a nearly four month break as Arizona hosts the 26th Annual Wildcat Invitational on February 22-23.
About the Course: Arizona will host 54 holes of stroke play at the Arizona National Golf Club, a course that will be laid out over 6,146 yards and play at par 72. Play on Monday and Tuesday will begin at 8:00 a.m. via a shotgun start.
The Field: A traditionally power-packed field will once again include a who's who of women's collegiate golf teams. Of the 16 teams participating, six of the top 10 ranked teams in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index are part of the field. The entire field, in alphabetical order, includes: Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, California, Denver, Duke, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pepperdine, Stanford, Tennessee, Tulane, UNLV, USC and Washington.
|Name||Year||Avg.||Top 10/20||Low Round||Low Tourn.|
|Isabelle Boineau||So.||72.72||0/3||68||143 (-1)|
|Alejandra Llaneza||Jr.||75.81||0/0||70||145 (+1)|
|Nikki Koller||So.||74.50||0/1||71||222 (+6)|
|Sherlyn Popelka||Fr.||72.67||1/1||69||209 (-7)|
|Margarita Ramos||So.||72.91||1/1||68||137 (-7)|
Tournament History: Arizona will be looking to capture its 8th team championship in the 26-year history of the Wildcat Invitational. Originally played at the Randolph North Country Club, the tournament was played two years at The Raven before moving to Arizona National in 2002. The event was played last year at the Peninsula Golf Club in Sonora, Mexico. Last season, UCLA captured the team title with a score of 869 while 2010 participants Jodi Ewart of New Mexico and Lizette Salas of USC shared medalist honors. Arizona last won the team title in 2001, the last of three-straight titles, while Erica Blasberg won the last individual title for the Wildcats in 2003.
Name Game: The list of former winners of the Wildcat Invitational includes a plethora of former and current LPGA stars. Current world #1-ranked player Lorena Ochoa won the 2001 and 2002 tournaments while current LPGA tour veteran Leta Lindley was the medalist for the 1992 event. Other LPGA stars who have taken home the individual medal include Grace Park, Danielle Ammaccapane and Heather Bowie.
Cats in the Polls: Arizona started the spring portion of the 2009-10 season ranked #19 in the latest Golf World/NGCA Coaches Poll, released on February 17. The Wildcats are also rated 21st in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, a purely statistical comparison of all NCAA teams. Freshman Sherlyn Popelka is the highest-rated player in the Performance Index, checking in at #35 while Margarita Ramos is not far behind in 42nd place.
Last Time Out: After a six-year drought from taking home hardware, Arizona battled difficult conditions to capture the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown in late October at the Boulder City Golf Club in Boulder City, Nev. Freshman Sherlyn Popelka completed the sweep of the titles for the Wildcats, shooting 7-under par over the 54 holes to give Arizona its first individual title since Alison Walshe won the 2008 NCAA West Regional. The victory was also the first for head coach Shelly Haywood in her third season in charge. The Wildcats shot 878 for the tournament, earning a five-stroke victory over Louisville.
Freshman Phenom: With her individual win, Popelka joined an impressive list of Arizona players who captured individual titles during their time as Wildcats. Along with Walshe and Ochoa, other Wildcats who captured medalist honors include Annika Sorenstam, Marisa Baena, Jenna Daniels, Natalie Gulbis and Leta Lindley.
Fast Starts: In all four tournaments this season, the Wildcats have played some of their best golf, shooting no worse than even par in any of the events. Arizona shot even on day one of two events after posting a season-opening total of 2-under 286 at the Mason Rudolph Championships before firing a 4-under par round of 284 at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown.
Coming Along: The youth of the Arizona women's golf squad has showed it is on its way toward contending for championships the rest of the way as the team has nearly eclipsed its season totals from 2008-09. Last season, the Wildcats amassed four top 10 finishes and eight top 20 places while this year's team has already secured a pair of top 10 results, including the win by Popelka, as well as six top 20 finishes. Isabelle Boineau has grabbed three top 20 spots in four starts while Popelka and Margarita Ramos have tallied once in each column. Nikki Koller also has a top 20 finish to her credit.
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: "Margarita (Ramos) has been playing amazing in qualifying. I think she was under par in 3 of her 4 rounds so far. Alejandra (Llaneza) has come back really focused and wants to win. Margarita has a great chance to win this tournament and I think as a team we have a really, really good chance of winning the team championship. All of my girls are playing really well. I think they're ready to go. We've played a lot of rounds at Arizona National. I think winning was great for them. They finally saw that they could win and it was a huge boost for them. I think the whole experience of the fall was really good and they are all playing really well and there's great chemistry in the team."
By The Numbers: Nikki Koller is currently 4th in par 3 scoring with a 2.92 average while Isabelle Boineau is tied for 14th at 2.98 in the latest round of NCAA statistics available on Golfstat.com. Boineau is also 10th in par 5 scoring at 4.75 while Popelka is 15th at 4.78 and Margarita Ramos is 23rd at 4.82. Popelka is also 6th in putts on greens in regulation with 1.793 and is tied for 19th in subpar strokes per round at 3.33 while Nikki Koller is 8th in putts on greens in regulation at 1.800. As a team, the Wildcats are 2nd in par 3 scoring at 3.09, 4th in par 5 scoring at 4.90 and 6th in putts on greens in regulation at 1.874.