Yes, I did say Southern California was going to win. And yes, I did think the tournament was over when the Trojans improved their lead from two to seven shots after 36 holes. But, I should have been able to figure out one important factor that nobody was really talking about: the golf course.
You see, the 24 teams playing in this year’s NCAA Women’s Championship were playing the Country Club of Landfall’s Dye Course. As in Pete Dye. The same Pete Dye that designed Purdue’s Kampen Course – home of the Boilermakers.
Now it all makes sense.
I watched Purdue standout Maude-Aimee LeBlanc use precise short-game tactics to get the ball up and down many times around the tricky, undulated Dye-designed greens. I witnessed Numa Gulyanamitta make very key par saves during a crucial point in the final round. I am sure there were many other well-executed shots by the Boilermakers over the course of the 72 hole championship.
Purdue won the championship by a single shot, and even though the turf is different from West Lafayette to Wilmington, the familiarity that they had been there and done that with several types of shots had to creep into the Boilermakers’ minds.
Purdue had been there before. In fact, in 2006 when the championship was played at Ohio State, I picked the Boilermakers to win – not as a dark horse, but to actually bring home the trophy. The Boilermakers struggled to a ninth-place finish that week, but never lost track of the ultimate goal of winning it all.
This year’s victory by the Big Ten champs is an historic one for women’s golf. For the simple reason that no team with the type of climate Purdue has to deal with has ever come close to taking home the trophy.
The game has been dominated by southern climate teams – now maybe this will help level the playing field a bit more for teams that battle the elements. Let’s not forget that Purdue is the home of last year’s NCAA individual champion Maria Hernandez. And with all five players returning and a couple of new players – Purdue has to be considered one of the favorites next year.
I have an idea: Let’s call it the “Big Four” for the 2010-11 season.