Notes: CSU Fullerton surges after reinstatement

CSU Fullerton junior Taylor Fowler

CSU Fullerton junior Taylor Fowler

Women's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Alison LeeUCLA  69.59 
2Annie ParkUSC  69.73 
3Yu LiuDuke  69.81 
4Stephanie MeadowAlabama  70.00 
5Gaby LopezArkansas  70.01 

Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Southern California 70.32 
2UCLA 70.60 
3Duke 70.79 
4Stanford 71.49  10 
5Arkansas 71.52 

The women’s golf record books at CSU Fullerton are sparse. The program took a hiatus between 1980 and 2009 and hadn’t recorded a win since being reinstated.

Until this season.

The Titans won the Cal Poly-hosted Firestone Grill Invitational in the fall and opened the door for great things this spring. Winning the Fresno State Lexus Classic on March 13 is the program’s biggest accomplishment yet, especially considering the field included programs like San Jose State, Fresno State and Sacramento State, and that CSU Fullerton won wire to wire.

“I’m sure (the Cal Poly victory) played a part in us pulling off the win,” head coach Pearl Sinn-Bonanni said of CSU Fullerton’s latest victory. “Each session that we practice together, we really work on playing one shot at a time and having one thought at a time. It’s something that’s ingrained into them.”

Sinn-Bonanni has assembled a roster of players that weren’t necessarily recruited by top top programs around the country. She calls her players scrappy, and the underdog position works to their advantage because they like coming from behind and accomplishing things no one saw coming.

“We don’t have the depth but we have a lot of character on our team,” she said. “We just grind.”

Fullerton’s move up the rankings since its reinstatement has been maybe the biggest grind. At the end of its first season, the team was at the bottom of Golfweek’s rankings at No. 178. It slowly climbed to No. 151 by the end of 2011, and currently is ranked No. 91.

The Titan roster hasn’t even seen a full turnover yet. Among the first group of players to come in, now juniors, is Taylor Fowler, younger sister of PGA Tour player Rickie Fowler. She and freshman Tisha Alyn Abrea challenge for the top spot each week. Fowler also recently issued a challenge to Sinn-Bonanni -- that the coach hit the links and try to break 90.

Sinn-Bonanni laughs when she tells the story, and admits that other than times like that (she gladly accepted the challenge, by the way, but just hasn’t had the time to do it yet), her clubs are mostly inactive. Coaching is a far cry from her playing days -- during which she won three USGA titles in addition to winning the LPGA State Farm Classic and Seoul Ladies Open -- and a much different beast.

“This is a completely different kind of ambition,” she said. “I want them to play well whereas before when I was playing it was about me putting in the work and doing what I needed to do physically. This is all mental on my part.”

A look ahead...

What: Avenue Spring Break Classic

When: March 26-27

Where: The Bay Course, Kapalua, Hawaii

Why it’s important: Cal, Colorado and Oregon will represent the Pac-12 in Hawaii this week as Pepperdine looks for a second season win. Keep Tennessee on the radar after the Lady Vols won the LSU Classic, and expect a strong finish from Texas San Antonio, which just won Augusta State’s tournament.

Sinn-Bonanni, who is happy to coach in the mornings then return home to her two young children in the afternoons, wants her players to lead balanced lives while still getting as much out of their college golf experience as possible.

Balance seems to fit the team well.

• • •

Play through the pain: For those wondering just what, exactly, caused Vanderbilt’s Lauren Stratton to shoot a final-round 86 at the LSU Classic on March 1 (it followed opening rounds of 72), rule out any thoughts of nerves or total swing destruction. The junior played through a nasty case of kidney stones, and underwent surgery to have them removed upon returning from the tournament.

With the round, Stratton fell from third on the individual leaderboard to T-27. She arrived at the course that morning without telling anyone about the pain, and as a result carded four double-bogeys and no birdies.

“We had no idea during the course of the round how much pain she was in,” head coach Greg Allen said later. “We would never have played her had we known. I know she’s a tough competitor and would stop playing at nothing.”

• • •

Short shots: Western Michigan had to withdraw from the final round of the Pinehurst No. 6 Challenge on March 20 to make its flight home. The Broncos were tied for 14th after Round 2, but lightning and thunderstorm delayed the final round. . . . . Wichita State overcame an 18-shot deficit during the final round of the Del Monterey Bay Invitational on March 20, and won the event by three shots over Columbia University.

• • •

photo

Jessica Wallace

Five questions with Colorado senior Jessica Wallace, who won the Clover Cup on March 18 for her second career collegiate title.

1.) Colorado players swept the top three spots at the Clover Cup. Does it make you play better when you know your teammates are right there behind you?

I think it really does push you to be on top of your game especially when they’re your own teammates that are pushing you. It’s not just that you get it on one particular week, we’re getting it every tournament we play. We like to compete, we want to win so we always end up pushing each other to play even better.

2.) This is your second collegiate win, how does it compare to the first?

They’re very different wins just because my other collegiate win came after I was in a car accident the night before. The frame of mind for both of these was completely different. I’m really proud of my performance for last year’s win just because it was an emotional grind the whole time. This was kind of, I knew where I was at, I understood what was going on at the moment a lot better than I did last time. To hold it together when I knew what was happening was a good accomplishment.

3.) You’re a senior, closing in on the end of your college career. Is there anything else you’d like to accomplish before graduating?

The No. 1 thing for us as a team is we’re ready to make it to nationals. I don’t think CU has ever made it to the national championship before and our group is definitely ready to take our team to the next level, especially since we’re hosting regionals this year. It’s a really big group effort this year to get it going.

4.) Does being a member of the Pac-12 feel any different to you? You’ve gotten to play in some different tournaments this year.

The biggest difference is probably just the locations that we play our tournaments. We’re playing against the top teams in the country every week, pretty much. We’re getting a much better dosage of the best players in the country this year as opposed to last year. We’re not complaining about the places we’re getting to go this year for sure.

5.) You’re all over the country this semester, from the East Coast to Hawaii. Has that been hard?

It’s been a crazy, really hectic schedule for us this year because our tournaments have been really all over the place, but it’s good because we get to see Duke at a tournament, we’re seeing USC, we’ve see Arizona State. We’re getting to see our Pac-12 competitors as well as the top teams from the other conferences. I think it’s just getting us ready for different course styles, different teams and giving us a reality check on how the different courses and teams play.

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