Bringing Manon Gidali to Arizona a semester early was a calculated move on head coach Laura Ianello’s part. But not even Ianello could have predicted what would happen next.
After a lackluster fall, the Wildcats were in need of a boost. Aside from that, the addition of Gidali would take the stress off senior trio Margarita Ramos, Isabelle Boineau and Nikki Koller.
When Arizona opened spring play at home Feb. 5 with the Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Gidali, a Parisian, had only barely qualified as the fifth player – her best qualifying round was 1 over par. At the tournament, played at Vistoso Golf Club in Tucson, she shot 12-under 204 to finish seven shots ahead of Ramos for her first college victory. Gidali’s 54-hole total also broke the scoring record previously held by Lorena Ochoa.
“Did I forecast 12 under par?” Ianello said of Gidali’s first tournament. “No, but, man, I’m sure glad that she did.”
With Gidali’s help, records fell for the team, too. The Wildcats shot 13-under 851 as a team, which is three shots better than the previous 54-hole best. Three other Arizona players finished inside the top 15 in a field that included five of the top 25 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and seven Pac-12 teams.
Scores aside, Ianello liked what she saw from her players as Arizona took a large, quick lead over UCLA and held it. With its much-discussed depth, UCLA is a team that can close a gap in a hurry, and as Ianello said, “There was not one moment where my girls felt at ease.”
Early success for Arizona amounts to a shift in thinking for the spring. No longer is there a set lineup; the addition of Gidali will make everyone work harder, Ianello said. Perhaps more importantly, no longer is Arizona an afterthought in the Pac-12.
“When we play at San Diego State, when we play at the Arizona State tournament, I think the girls are refreshed and they’re more believing that they can win.”
What: Lady Puerto Rico Classic
Where: Rio Mar CC (River), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
When: Feb. 12-14
Why it’s important: The season-opener for many of the top northern and southeastern schools, including LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma State and host Purdue. Field includes five teams in Golfweek’s top 30.
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Adding depth: Purdue also is lengthening its roster for spring with the addition of two freshmen, Kendal Dusenberry and Vicky Sherer.
Scherer is from Augsberg, Germany, and won the German junior in 2007. She finished in the top 10 at the 2010 British Girls Championship, and represented Germany in the European Girls Championship in 2008 and ’09. She’s the first German to join the roster since Thea Hoffmeister, who played for the Boilermakers’ 2010 national champions.
Dusenberry, of Newhall, Calif., has four top-10 finishes in AJGA events in the past three years.
The two players join veterans Paula Reto, the recent Dixie Women’s Amateur champion, and Laura Gonzalez. Freshman Aurora Kan and juniors Jam Vilairatana and Kishi Sinha also were among the fivesome that ended the fall by winning the Landfall Tradition.
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Five questions with Arizona freshman Manon Gidali, who won the individual title at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational in her first outing as a Wildcat.
1. How did you and the team celebrate the win?
We had a big dinner with the team and families. It was a lot of fun.
2. Describe how it felt to beat top-ranked UCLA by double digits?
It felt very good. Beating them this much was unexpected, but everybody on the team played very well, and it shows that we can compete with every team.
3. You broke a record previously held by Lorena Ochoa. How does that make you feel?
I don’t really realize it yet. Even if I know it is really good, I’m really humble, and I know that I am really far from being as good as Lorena Ochoa.
4. How did you adjust to college life so quickly? Was it an easy transition?
Well, my coaches Laura (Ianello) and Justin (Silverstein) as well as my teammates are helping me a lot to feel like at home. It is hard to leave home, especially since my English is not very good yet. But I am feeling better and better every day.
5. What’s your next goal for yourself in college golf?
My next goal is to win more tournaments, especially with the team. And of course like every other girl on the team, I hope to win the national championship for Arizona.