Sept. 23, 2008
What’s Happening in the Clubhouse: The No. 13 Arizona women’s golf team will tee-off Friday through Sunday, September 26-28, at the Mason Rudolph Championships hosted by Vanderbilt University in Franklin, Tenn.
The Course: The Vanderbilt Legends Course North Tees stretch 6,217 yards and is a par-72. The club offers 36 holes of championship golf designed by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp. Vanderbilt Legends has been recognized by GOLF FOR WOMEN as one of the Top 100 most women-friendly courses in North America while acting as the host of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 LPGA Franklin American Mortgage Championship. A private club, Vanderbilt Legends is located approximately 30 minutes from the Nashville airport.
The Field: Joining the Wildcats at the tournament are 9 of the top 10 teams ranked in the GolfWorld/NGCA Preseason Coaches Poll. The only team missing out of the top 10 is Georgia, but this week’s season-opener does include defending national champion and #1-ranked USC, #2 UCLA, #3 Duke, #4 Arizona State, #5 Oklahoma State, #7 Purdue, #8 Florida, #9 Auburn and #10 Alabama. Other ranked teams include #12 Wake Forest and #15 Arkansas while Central Florida, Stanford and Tennessee- Chattanooga join host Vanderbilt to round out the 17-team field.
The Schedule: Arizona will play 18 holes each day with the first groups scheduled to tee off at 8:00 a.m. EST. The Wildcats will have a practice round on Thursday after arriving in Nashville on Wednesday evening.
Coming to You Live: Live scoring for the tournament will be provided on www.golfstat.com. Complete scoring will be available on http://arizonaathletics.com after each round of play.
The Starting Lineup: Based on their qualifying rounds played earlier this month, these five players will make up the Arizona team competing at the Mason Rudolph Championships: #1 Alejandra Llaneza, #2 Amanda Wilson, #3 Margarita Ramos, #4 Brittany Benvenuto, #5 Nikki Koller.
Turn Back the Clock: The Arizona women’s golf team also started off the 2007-08 season at the Mason Rudolph Championships and finished in a tie for 6th place out of 17 teams. The ‘Cats opened the tournament with a strong 283 showing, but struggled to match that score with a 300 team tally in the second round. Arizona wrapped up the three-day event with a 293 and finished at 877 (+13). Current Wildcats Amanda Wilson and Alejandra Llaneza were a part of that team. Wilson was rock-steady with rounds of 73-77-75 to finish in a tie for 48th at 225 (+9). Llaneza, making her Wildcats debut, garnered a share of 77th place overall, carding rounds of 78-80-76 to come in at 234 (+18) on the par-72, 6,347-yard layout. Senior Marisa Smith also competed as an individual in that event and posted rounds of 77-88-87 to capture 90th place overall with a threeround total of 252 (+36).
About the Coach: Second-year head coach Shelly Haywood has spent a total of five years on the Arizona coaching staff after starting her Wildcat career as an assistant. An all-Big West selection at New Mexico State as a collegian, Haywood has already coached eight all-Pac 10 selections during her time in Tucson and has put together one of the most highly-touted recruiting classes in program history for the 2008-09 season.
Big Shoes to Fill: A youthful Wildcat squad will need to work together to collectively fill the void left by graduated senior Allison Walshe. The 2007-08 Pacific-10 women’s golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Walshe led the Wildcats with a 72.50 stroke average, recording 14-of-34 rounds at par or better. She completed her final collegiate season as the #8-ranked golfer in the GolfWeek/Sagarin Performance Index and captured three individual titles in 11 starts to go along with eight top 10 finishes. She was Arizona’s top finisher in 8 of the 11 events as she was chosen to the Duramed FUTURES Tour NGCA Division I All-America first team.
Youth Movement: While head coach Shelly Haywood will run out a pair of freshmen and a sophomore this weekend at the Mason Rudolph Championships, she does so with the confidence of a talented squad that has a balance and depth that her previous squads have lacked. Freshman Margarita Ramos qualified third for the Wildcats this week and brings an impressive junior resume to the Old Pueblo. A four-year letterwinner at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, Ramos has been a junior national champion in her native Mexico and competed in Mexico, Canada and Europe. Fellow international player Isabelle Boineau also brings a wealth of international experience to the team and is currently the top-ranked amateur in France. Though she will not compete this week, she has been tabbed to crack the starting lineup in the near future. Nikki Koller took the fifth spot in the Wildcats lineup this week and was a decorated prep player in Kentucky. She was the 2006-07 Kentucky state champion for all classes and advanced to the Round of 32 at the 2008 United States Women’s Amateur. Rounding out the fab four freshman is Ashley Malaska, daughter of world-famous teacher Mike Malaska. A three-time all-region selection at Red Mountain High in Mesa, Malaska is a great athlete who hopes to turn her relatively-new focus on golf into a fine career with the Wildcats.
Back in the Fold: Despite the loss of their talented senior, the Wildcats return six members from the 2007-08 team, including a pair of players that head coach Shelly Haywood expects to have big seasons. Sophomore Alejandra Llaneza was a honorable mention all-Pac-10 selection last season while also being named to the all-Pac-10 Freshman squad. She finished her debut season with a stroke average of 75.73 and carded a low round of 69 in the opening round of the Las Vegas Shootout. Senior Amanda Wilson has had a strong start to the Fall, indicated by her #2 qualifying spot in the opening tournament. She averaged 77.32 strokes per round as a junior, but fired a low round of 70 to lead the Wildcats at the Northrup Grumman Challenge to start the Spring end of the schedule. Overall, the Wildcats return three senior and a pair of juniors to the fold, helping to provide solid leadership to the five underclass members of the team.
Headed Home: Freshman Nikki Koller will have the chance to make her collegiate debut in front of friends and family as the Legends of Tennessee Golf Course is located just 82 miles from her hometown of Lewisburg, Kentucky. As a multi-sport prep standout last season, Koller wrapped up her high school career by earning 15 varsity letters and was chosen an Outstanding Female Senior Athlete for the state of Kentucky.
From the Head of Haywood: Head coach Shelly Haywood recently sat down and provided her thoughts on each member of the team as well as general thoughts about the season.
Brittany Benvenuto: “She had a great summer. She struggled with her confidence a little last year, but she worked hard all summer. She won the Pennsylvania State Amateur and has worked incredibly hard on her golf swing and her confidence. She is hitting the ball better than I’ve ever seen her hit it. She brings a great energy to our lineup and everyone looks to her. She’s one of those kids that shows a lot of leadership.”
Isabelle Boineau: “She possesses an amazing resume. She’s the top-ranked amateur in France. She’s a very consistent and steady player and doesn’t let her emotions get to her on the course. She’s a wonderful putter and doesn’t let a lot of things bother her. She’s got more international experience than anyone on the team as a freshman. We’re really looking forward to her breaking into that lineup.”
Nikki Koller: “Nikki is a great kid who is very steady, a very good student and a very good player. She’s very athletic and very determined. I’m looking for very good things out of Nikki. She’s a grinder. She never gives up.”
Alejandra Llaneza: “She had a great summer, finishing 3rd at the Canadian Amateur. She will be representing Mexico at the World Amateur in October. She’s our number one player right now. She’s very strong and she’s a bulldog out there. She’s very gritty and determined. I look for her to step it up this year. She’s been working hard in the gym and we’re really proud of her. She was under par over four rounds to qualify for this week.”
Ashley Malaska: “She is a great athlete and her father is one of the top teachers in the world, so she comes in with a lot of great instruction. She’s only played golf for about three years. She’s a really hard worker and determined. She just needs a little bit more experience. She showed some great improvements at the JV tournament last week. She’s going to do great.”
Emily Mason: “She played with us most of the Spring last season and is a very consistent player. She’s been working really hard on her putting. She’s one of those kids that is working hard at breaking into one of those top five spots.”
Margarita Ramos: “Margarita is an incredibly talented player and is incredibly consistent. She’s played in five or six LPGA events in Mexico. She was a medalist for local qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open in Phoenix this summer. She works very hard on her game. Of all the girls on the team, she’s probably the best driver on the team. You rarely see her miss the fairway and she’s a wonderful ball-striker. She’s a great personality and brings a lot of energy to the team.
Brooke Schneider: “She is working on getting physically stronger and just needs to get a little more consistent. It’s her senior year and she’s one of those leaders that we count on.”
Marisa Smith: “Marisa is our team captain and is the best team captain I could have asked for. She’s very involved with all of the girls and very organized. She is definitely the glue that holds the team together. She’s been playing very well of late and almost qualified to play in Nashville. She’s very determined and the girls look to her for leadership both on and off the golf course.”
Amanda Wilson: “She has played in almost every tournament since she came to UofA. She has a ton of college golf experience. She played well last year after struggling her sophomore year and has been great so far this year. She’s the one that we need to look for for some low numbers this year. She’s had enough experience traveling and playing. If Amanda plays well, the team will play well. I look for Amanda to lead the team and get it done on the golf course. I think she’s ready to have a good year.”
More From the Coach: “Off the tee, we’re not exceptionally long, but I think we’ll be much more consistent. I don’t think you’ll see a lot of high numbers out of our girls. I obviously expect to see some under par rounds. You might not see some really low 65 or 66 rounds, though we’re definitely capable, but I think we’ll be much more consistent. I think our number five player will help us this year. If that player can help throw out a bad round, it will make a huge difference. We’ve got 5 or 6 players that can shoot under par at any moment. Even though we’re young, our freshmen are very experienced and played in a lot of international tournaments.
We’re all very good putters. Our putting stats in our top five have been really good. Amanda is as good a putter as I’ve seen and Isabelle is a great putter as well. To be able to look at a birdie putt and expect to make it is a huge thing for us. I think we need to continue to improve on our short game, but then you never stop working on that part of your golf game, even if you’re Tiger Woods.
Our team unity this season is really incredible. In past seasons, we haven’t all been on the same page. With the people we have this year, we’re all on the same page and everyone wants the same things. We’re going to surprise some people this year. People aren’t giving us a lot of credit right now because we have two or three freshmen in the lineup and a sophomore and it’s kind of an unknown. I’m anxious to see how we do this week. If we can finish in the top three, I will be quite pleased."