Don’t read too much into the lowlights of LSU’s erratic fall – especially now that the Tigers have a third victory on the season.
Interspersed between wins at the Cougar Cup and Tar Heel Invitational in the fall was an 11th-place finish at the Fall Preview and a 15th at the SEC/Pac-12 Challenge. It’s so unlike LSU that it’s hard not to take notice. What the results page doesn’t show, however, is that the Preview was played without a full roster (senior Jacqueline Hedwall was in Ireland caddieing for twin Caroline at the Solheim Cup). At the SEC/Pac-12 Challenge, LSU dug a hole with a first-round 19-over 307 and couldn’t get out.
“It just made them mad because we really feel like we’re one of the better teams in the country,” LSU coach Karen Bahnsen said. “It made them more determined. Their goal is to be more consistent this semester.”
The Tigers traveled to Puerto Rico for their spring-season opener and recovered from a one-shot deficit to earn a tight win over Georgia. LSU now has won three times on the season, which is a significant number not just for the present but also in LSU history. Aside from top-ranked UCLA, a team that has won four times this season, it gives LSU more victories than any other top-50 team. It’s only the fourth time in school history that an LSU team has won at least three tournament titles.
“If you look at the scores, we were pretty steady – no real highs, no real lows. Very steady,” Bahnsen said. “We kept that going, and were fortunate enough to beat Georgia by two.”
When it comes to lucky No. 3, consider, also, that it’s where the Tigers finished on the NCAA Championship leaderboard last spring. Can LSU contend for a national title this year? The Tigers’ record seems to speak for itself. So does the swiftness with which Bahsen answers: “Absolutely.”
That doesn’t mean LSU has to spend much time thinking about it. It’s just not the Tigers’ style.
“We can’t control what everybody else does.”
• • •
Refreshed: Here’s a familiar name: Marta Silva Zamora. Last year’s Player of the Year had a quiet fall after a summer “off-season” during which she played five tournaments with the Spanish Golf Federation. She won her first title of the year at the Lady Puerto Rico Open.
“Usually you just rest, you just work a little bit on your golf,” said Silva Zamora, a senior at Georgia. “I just felt like I was tired – not physically but just mentally.”
Silva Zamora’s 3-under 213 in Puerto Rico gave her a two-shot edge on four players tied for second, including teammate Emilie Burger. The team finished runner-up to LSU, by two shots.
What: Central District Invitational
When: Feb. 20-21
Where: River Wilderness GC, Parrish, Fla.
Why: A 15-team field highlighted by LSU, Vanderbilt and North Carolina. It’s a chance for northern schools to open their spring in the warm weather. Three of those teams to watch: host Michigan State, Ohio State and Northwestern.
“Instead of (the team) just playing for sixth spot, we’re playing for the win,” Georgia’s Silva Zamora said. “We haven’t been there in a long time, so it was good to be there again.”
All signs say this could be the year of the resurgent Georgia team. Said the Bulldogs’ Burger: “We all weren’t too happy that we didn’t make it (to nationals) last year as a team, and I think Marta was too, even though she made it as an individual. I think we’re all motivated, and we’re all working on things that we each need to work on in order to make ourselves better, which will in turn help the team as well.”
• • •
Five questions with Auburn’s Victoria Trapani, a freshman from Hollywood, Fla., who became the third Auburn player to win an individual title this season with her victory Feb. 14 at the UCF Challenge:
You had 10 birdies and made bogey or worse only six times in 54 holes. What does that say about your game?
Normally I am kind of an aggressive player, always aim for the pins. . . . I normally do make a lot of birdies per round. I’m not a very conservative player. On the last day – that’s one part of my game I’m trying to work on – I got conservative because I knew I had the lead. I’m trying not to to do that anymore because I almost got it taken from me. Bogeys per round, I think that’s just part of I’ve been practicing so much, so of course you’re going to have less bogeys per round.
It was really cold the first two rounds. How did you deal with that?
My coach taught me that everyone, all 100 other players, were in the same kind of weather. Whether they’re used to it or not, 35, 40 degrees is still cold. You just have to use it to your advantage.
This is the first win of your career, and you’re only a freshman. How does that feel?
It feels good, definitely. I wasn’t really expecting it. I honestly didn’t even think about winning individually. Our team has been trying to win for the past six months now, and we’ve gotten so close. I was really more concentrated on the team, and I realized the last day that I had a shot to win. Being inexperienced and all that crossed my mind, but my coach walked with me the last 12 holes to help keep me focused and not get nervous.
You’re the third Auburn player to win an individual title this season. What was the team’s reaction to that?
Our leader on the team is Patty (Sanz), because she is the senior. She’s really mentally strong. Although she didn’t have a win this year, she definitely knows how to win. Mentally, she kept me focused. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. That was a big part of our fall. I roomed with her the whole fall season because coach knew that she would help me. Every time I felt like I couldn’t do it – especially this past weekend – I just thought about what Patty would say.
Did it feel good to finally get over the hump and get a team win?
I think the fact that we were really close and we should have won quite a few events in the fall, it kind of pushed us, and we knew that we needed to win to start off our (spring) season and to get us confident going into SECs, regionals and nationals. Sometimes winning later in the season is better than winning in the beginning.