Megan McChrystal’s win Sept. 15 at the NCAA Fall Preview was just as much about the right pair of shoes and a little first aid as it was about birdies and bogeys.
After opening with a 4-under 68 at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas, the LSU senior stubbed her toe on a suitcase in her hotel room. By the next day, the toe was purple and so painful that it gave McChrystal a noticeable hobble. Since it was the pinkie toe on her right foot, the injury also affected her ability to push off her right side during her swing.
McChrystal managed a 73 in Round 2 – which kept her in the running for the individual title – then made a series of adjustments that included an old pair of shoes, a new tape job and even a tiny swing change.
“I figured out how to swing differently, take a step back immediately in my follow-through with my driver so I wouldn’t be in so much pain,” she explained.
McChrystal rebounded with a 65 in the final round that concluded with her sinking a pair of 10-footers for birdies at Nos. 17 and 18, sealing her two-shot victory over Vanderbilt’s Marina Alex McChrystal said she had her eyes only on the team leaderboard, and didn’t even know she had won the individual title – the fourth of her collegiate career – until stepping off the course to congratulations.
“I just kept hitting them as close as possible and just rolling putts in when possible,” she said. “The individual title usually just takes care of itself when you’re trying to go low for your team.”
The Fall Preview marks the second consecutive tournament, dating back to last season, in which McChrystal has delivered a jaw-dropping round. Playing as an individual at the NCAA Championship in May, McChrystal put up a final-round 8-under 64 at the Counry Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C., to set a school, course and NCAA Championship scoring record.
In fact, McChrystal – injured toe and all – told LSU head coach Karen Bahnsen before the final round at the Preview that her goal was to go out and shoot another 64.
“She’s a tough girl,” Bahnsen said. “She’s always been a great ballstriker and always (has) been close; it’s just a matter of her breaking through and making some of those putts.”
LSU fell one shot short of Alabama in the team race at the Fall Preview, but it’s a promising start for the Tigers, who have a solid starting lineup with seniors McChrystal and Amalie Valle and junior Tessa Teachman. Junior Jacqueline Hedwall (twin sister of 2010 NCAA champion Caroline Hedwall) returns after a successful summer, and sophomore Mary Michael Maggio is healthy again after undergoing major shoulder surgery last November.
“It’s pretty much the same five that played the tournaments we played well in last year,” McChrystal said of the team. “We know when we go out there, we’re all going to fight to go low for each other.”
The roster might not have changed much in Baton Rouge, but the surroundings have. LSU has resumed practice at the University Club, after more than $3 million in renovations that increased the difficulty of the course by adding bulkheads, hazards and trees, and increasing undulation in the greens.
“Honestly, it was too easy for us (before),” Bahnsen said of the layout.
Clearly, after the course renovations and McChrystal’s injury, “easy” isn’t a word that gets much use at LSU.
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A six-year winless streak can create quite the proverbial monkey on a team’s back. North Carolina doesn’t need to worry about that anymore, thanks to an eight-shot victory at the Cougar Classic on Sept. 14. The Tar Heels won wire-to-wire at Yeaman’s Hall in Hanahan, S.C. for its first team championship since March 2004.
“For me, it was going to be interesting to see how the team handled the last day,” head coach Jan Mann said of her first win at Chapel Hill. “Obviously we have some freshmen on the team that were contributing a great deal, and I really didn’t know how they would react to being in the lead and how they would play.”
Turns out Mann had nothing to worry about, as her rookies were at the front of the North Carolina charge. Jackie Chang and Casey Grice tied for second at 3-under 213, while Katherine Perry was T-21. All five Tar Heels finished inside the top 25. With UNC having one of the top freshmen classes of any team – all three players made Golfweek’s preseason list of freshmen to watch – it could be the start of something great for Mann.
“I could not be more pleased with our freshmen,” she said. “All three of them are great young ladies and they’ve just been a wonderful addition.”
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A month into her sophomore season at North Dakota State, Amy Anderson remains undefeated in the fall. Anderson, the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, won her first three events upon joining the Bison last fall, breaking North Dakota State’s 18-, 36- and 54-hole records in the process. So far this season, Anderson has defended her title at the Chip-N-Club Invitational and also won the Hawkeye Intercollegiate by six shots. She now owns seven victories in 13 career starts.
Anderson and North Dakota State are back in action Sept. 26 at the Wisconsin Badger Invitational.
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A look ahead
What: Mason Rudolph Women’s Championship
When: Sept. 24-26
Where: Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn.
Why its important: Top-ranked UCLA and No. 3 USC are in the field, and so is defending national champion Purdue, Golfweek’s preseason No. 1. Fall Preview champion Alabama headlines a list of SEC powerhouses that includes Auburn, Florida, Georgia and host Vanderbilt. Don’t count out Duke or Wake Forest, either.
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What: Golfweek Conference Challenge
When: Sept. 25-27
Where: Red Sky Golf Club, Wolcott, Colo.
Why its important: The 18-team field includes 15 teams that finished the 2009-10 season in the top 75 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Arizona headlines the field, after opening the season with a win at the Topy Cup in Japan for its third title in four starts (dating back to last season). Defending champion Pepperdine also is in the field, and so is Denver, which has a home-state advantage.
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Five questions with Oregon senior Erica Omlid, who earned her first collegiate victory at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational while leading the Ducks to victory as a team.
1.) You broke your own personal-best score twice at the Branch Law. How does that feel?
It feels good. I didn’t surprise myself, I’ve just been waiting for this. I’ve been very patient, just kind of plugging away. Just starting to reap some rewards from the work I’ve put in has been very nice and very rewarding. It kind of makes me hungry for more.
2.) This is your first win since your senior year of high school. Were you feeling some pressure to get it done?
It didn’t really bother me at all, to be honest with you. It was weird because it was a shot-gun so it wasn’t like I was in the final group, coming down 18 and everybody was waiting. I was pretty much clueless the whole time and I guess I’m kind of greatful for that. In the sense of getting the monkey off my back, it feels so much better. It’s been a long time, and I hope to narrow that gap between wins.
3.) You led the team to a school record and a win in New Mexico. Is there a different mindset as far as leadership goes now that you’re a senior?
I still can’t believe that I’m a senior. I think that we’re all just doing our jobs as members of the team and we have each other’s backs like no other and I feel like our chemistry is really well on our team and we’re just kind of doing our best and hopefully that’s (good enough) to progress us as a team. Golf as a team sport, it’s kind of hard to put all that together, but I think this season will be pretty special for us. Kendra Little has been winning since she was a freshman, and she’s my best friend. We’re living together and so it’s nice for us to kind of talk about all this stuff anytime we want and kind of have different perspectives.
4.) You were on the road for back-to-back tournaments last week. How do you stay on top of your schoolwork when you’re traveling that much?
We don’t start school until the 27th because we’re on the quarter system so it’s been very easy, it feels like quite the life at this point.
5.) You’re a born-and-raised Oregonian. What’s the best thing about where you live?
I love my family, I know everybody does. I really value having them near me all the time. It’s so nice to run home and see my mom and dad and see my 92-year-old grandpa and not have to be far away from them. I just kind of look to them for support and if I need, just to kind of go reset, just go home and be with my dogs. I’m a homebody, and it could be the fact that I’m the baby of my family, and I love just being home.