Grace Na hasn’t even been at Pepperdine a full year, but already she’s part of an elite club – and one that has greater significance as a member of the Wave.
Na tied the NCAA 18-hole scoring record Monday at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown, shooting a 9-under 63 at Boulder Creek (Nev.) Golf Club. Na joined three other players in the 9-under club, including Pepperdine alumna Katherine Hull, who shot 9-under 63 in March 2003 during the first round of the San Jose State Spartan Invite, then went on to win the tournament by eight shots. Arkansas sophomore Emily Tubert accomplished the feat last year at Boulder Creek, and Duke alumna Liz Janangelo shot a final-round 9-under 62 at the Chrysler ACC/SEC Challenge in October 2004.
Starting on No. 10, Na birdied Nos. 11, 12, 13, 16 and 17. After the turn, she continued her streak with birdies at Nos. 1, 2 and 3, and added a ninth and final one at the par-4 fifth. After hitting the par-5 ninth in two by accident (Na thinks she focused her range finder on a tree behind the green, and thus landed her approach shot on the green before the group ahead of her had cleared), she three-putted from 40 feet to stay at 9 under. Na leads San Diego State’s Christine Wong by four shots.
“I did have the opportunity (to break the record), and as much as I want to think that way, I really don’t,” Na said.
Na jokes that the morning began with her “freaking out” on the range because she wasn’t hitting the ball too well. As the day wore on, she focused on her process and routine on the course – something she’s been working on with Pepperdine head coach Laurie Gibbs – and didn’t know she had tied the scoring record until Gibbs and her teammates met her at the end of her round.
Na, who graduated high school a semester early to join the Wave team last spring, calls the day a boring one, and it’s justified by her stats. She hit every fairway and green, and stuck 12 of her approach shots to inside 15 feet. She had 28 putts on the day.
“This course is very scoreable, but because it seems so scoreable, a lot of people lose focus on course management,” Na said. Boulder Creek can play especially tough when the wind is blowing, but Na took advantage of Monday’s calm conditions.
Boulder Creek, it seems, is an agreeable venue for Pepperdine in general. This is the team’s first return trip to the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown since 2008, when it set an NCAA record with a team score of 41 under.