Notebook: Arkansas' home course aids road wins
There’s a reason Arkansas’ past two victories have come at the LSU Classic. The University Club in Baton Rouge, La., is no walk in the park, and its reminiscent of Arkansas’ home course, Blessings Golf Club. When players find a spot on Shauna Estes-Taylor’s roster, they learn how to play strategic, target-oriented golf. If not, Blessings would eat them alive.
It was a similar feeling during the final round of the LSU Classic on March 24. Arkansas was working on a wire-to-wire victory, but had to fight 20-30 mph hour winds in Round 3 to do it. It was a “pick a target, stick to it and try to find your golf ball” kind of day, Estes-Taylor said.
Arkansas’ final-round 21-over 309 was the second-lowest that day, and it was the team’s highest score of the week by 12 shots. The Razorbacks’ 10-shot victory marked the first team title since Arkansas teed it up at University Club for the 2011 version of this tournament. Arkansas finished second in back-to-back tournaments coming into the LSU Classic, and has not finished outside the top 5 this season.
“They kind of got ahead of themselves and started think outcome, not process,” Estes-Taylor said of the past two tournaments.
Arkansas’ success has come as much from the personalities involved in the program as its surroundings. Estes-Taylor remains close with alumna and World No. 1 Stacy Lewis. She’ll watch the team compete this week at the Bryan Collegiate, Arkansas’ final regular-season event before the SEC Championship next month.
“She always likes to get out to one or two events,” Estes-Taylor said of Lewis. “She loves the Razorbacks.”
Lewis also makes herself available to answer players’ questions. She’s a invaluable resource for this team.
Roster-wise, Arkansas has been able to count on Emily Tubert for consistently low numbers. After a swing tweak during the winter, Tubert, a U.S. Curtis Cupper, is experiencing restored confidence. She won the individual title at the LSU Classic, her second this spring and the fifth of her career.
“When she trusts it, it’s unbelievable,” Estes-Taylor said.
Freshmen Gabriela Lopez and Regina Plasencia, both of Mexico, have come up big for Arkansas, too.
The Razorbacks seem to be sticking to Estes-Taylor’s philosophy: Get better every day. It’s good timing for a victory, too. Postseason is just around the corner.
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LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR KIM
Gonzaga’s Alice Kim was the only amateur to tee it up at the LPGA’s Kia Classic last weekend. The sophomore earned the spot courtesy of her individual victory at the UC Irvine Invitational. Kim shot rounds of 77-89 to miss the cut at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.
“I hope she keeps this in perspective, and I think she will,” Gonzaga head coach Brad Rickel said of Kim’s struggles Friday. “I think we should all be proud of her. She became the first Gonzaga player to get this opportunity, and regardless what number she shot the experience is something that can only make her better.”
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Notre Dame sophomore Ashley Armstrong earned a second consecutive tournament victory at the Briar’s Creek Invitational.
1. What’s the best part of your game right now?
I would definitely say my putting. I have been making a lot of 3- to 6-footers and those save a lot of strokes. I would definitely say I’m very confident in my putting right now.
2. How do you compare your last two victories (at the Insperity Lady Jaguar and Briar’s Creek)?
I would say I was hitting the ball pretty well at (the Insperity Lady Jaguar) and everything was just pretty consistent. There wasn’t anything that was really off. I was just making a lot of putts. I honestly didn’t know that I was in the lead on the last day, I was just steadily making pars and making birdies. I didn’t have any bogeys. There wasn’t anything spectacular, everything was consistent. When its consistent, it makes golf so much easier. Normally my game is quite different – I’m very much a scramble player. It was consistent and kind of easy. The putting just came and I made a lot short putts for birdies and par.
Then we went to South Carolina and it was freezing cold, I had six layers on. The wind was blowing constantly 30 mph and we had gusts up to 49 mph. We were out there all day, Monday and Tuesday. We were supposed to play 36 on Monday, but the first round took six and a half hours. We had to go back out Tuesday morning and finish. It was so cold and windy, you can’t really play your normal game in those conditions. . . . I was making my driver go five feet off the ground. They were very different weeks, condition wise.
3. You were one of three Notre Dame players to earn a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open last year. What’s your best memory from Blackwolf Run?
I definitely played really poorly at the Open. I was just star struck. I didn’t know I was going to be in the Open; I was on the waiting list. I went the day before and we just were kind of hanging out because I wasn’t going to find out (if I was in until) the night before the practice round.
I don’t think it really hit me until I was on the tee box on Thursday. During the week, there’s not many people there, the amount of people that showed up on Thursday, it was something I’m not used to. Especially with college golf, we don’t get too many spectators. The first tee, I was shaking. But it was one of the most awesome experiences.
4. Did playing a challenging championship golf course like Blackwolf Run carry over to this season at all?
Short game. College golf we typically play 6,300 yards; this was around 7,000 and I’m not going to hit the par 4s in two. I wasn’t getting up-and-down for par really anywhere. I’d definitely say short game. These greens were very fast, very undulating. After that week, I realized I’m not a long hitter so the short game would have been really crucial.
5. There’s a lot of tradition at Notre Dame, what’s your favorite thing about being a student-athlete there?
I would definitely say the best part about it is the combination of school and athletics. You don’t come across many schools where they cherish both. Most important to me when I was choosing a school was education. My parents stressed that I had to go to a school that was going to provide a really good edcuation. Notre Dame provides both a competitive golf team and a good education.