Many coaches have said it, and many more teams have lived it: No lead is safe with UCLA breathing down your neck. But at the Bruin/Wave Invitational on March 6, Pepperdine proved another adage: The Bruins are only human.
Playing in the event it co-hosts each spring with UCLA, Pepperdine earned its first tournament title (not counting the West Coast Conference Championship because, after all, the Waves have won the past 10 of those) since the 2011 UNLV Spring Invitational. Attribute part of the victory to familiarity with the course, El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif. It’s a track Pepperdine plays three or four times per month.
But it’s more than just that. Two of the major factors at play for the Waves’ success were the maturing of a young team and attention to detail by head coach Laurie Gibbs.
Pepperdine’s roster contains only one upperclassman, senior Kaitlin Drolson. Even with two sophomores and two freshmen filling out the lineup at the Bruin/Wave, Pepperdine didn’t buckle under the pressure as UCLA rapidly closed a 15-shot gap in Round 3.
“They’re playing with some of the best players in the country,” Gibbs said of the final round. “It was one of those things where you can’t play against your opponent; you have to play against the course.”
What: LSU Golf Classic
When: March 9-11
Where: The University Club, Baton Rouge, La.
Why it’s important: Despite the fact that LSU finished a disappointing sixth in this tournament last year, the Tigers are favored to win at home, which would bring their season victory total to four. Challengers include Vanderbilt and TCU – teams that beat LSU recently at the Central District – as well as Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Gibbs watched her team go a collective 1 under at the difficult par-4 18th, which helped the Waves finish two shots ahead of UCLA. As their ranking continues to climb – the Waves started the spring at No. 37 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and entered the Bruin/Wave at No. 24 – Gibbs feels like the team is getting back to where it belongs.
“We’re usually trying to stay away from the golf swing and play golf,” she said.
Gibbs calls this squad extremely open-minded, which is good for a coach who is a fan of “classroom golf.” Gibbs spent considerable time during the offseason looking at statistics with her players and figuring out areas where they could make improvements. That included a lot of work on pre-shot routines and short game.
So far, that work seems to be paying off. Sophomore Grace Na, Pepperdine’s No. 1 player, credited improved confidence last fall when she tied the NCAA 18-hole scoring record with a 9-under 63. This week, freshman Alina Ching led the team for the second time this spring, finishing runner-up at El Caballero.
“This group, they want to win; they want to play well,” Gibbs said. “They’ve done it now, and they know they can do it.”
And that makes the coach’s job just a little easier.
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Incredible shrinking Bruins? Don’t get too alarmed just yet. UCLA competed without senior Brianna Do and freshman Kyle Roig at the Bruin/Wave Invitational – leaving the Bruins with only four players – but according to head coach Carrie Forsyth, UCLA will be back to full strength for Arizona State’s Ping Invitational in two weeks. The short roster was a result of a one-event suspension for violations of team rules.
Still, the four players representing UCLA managed a runner-up finish, with all four finishing in the top 11. It was UCLA’s seventh start this season, and the Bruins’ third runner-up finish. They won the other four.
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Short shots: Alabama’s victory March 4 at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate brings its season title total to three. That puts the Crimson Tide, ranked No. 2, even with No. 7 LSU and one behind UCLA. . . . Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla., has been selected to host the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships, host Methodist University and the NCAA announced. The 72-hole stroke-play events will be played May 14-17. Golfweek will host a preview event Oct. 14-16, 2012, for the top men’s and women’s teams in NCAA Division III.
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Five questions with Georgia State senior Charlotte Lorentzen of Soroe, Denmark, who won her fourth career collegiate title March 6 at the Hurricane Invitational.
1. You birdied your final hole to win by one shot. Did you know you needed to?
No, I didn’t really know. I knew of course the scores were going to be high because there was literally a hurricane going (on). I didn’t know I had to birdie the last hole. I just did it, and right after, my coach said there might be a chance that I was winning.
2. Describe the conditions on that final day – were they pretty bad?
There were like wind gusts of 30-40 mph. The course (Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club in Coral Gables, Fla.) has so many hazards, you won’t believe it. You just had to stay in the game and be really patient because of the wind and the hazards – they were just so scary on some holes. Literally, water everywhere or mangroves. It was just a matter of being really patient with your game, because there were bogeys everywhere.
3. Three of your four career victories have come in the past year. What do you attribute that to?
I had a pretty bad season – well not a bad season – over the summer, beginning of the summer and end of last spring. I kind of struggled with my game and didn’t feel like I was getting much out of the work that I did. I went home over the summer and talked to my coach and the national team coach in Denmark and with my sports psychologist, and we worked some stuff out. I just regained my game at the end of the summer, had some good results at the end of the summer and regained my confidence as well. It’s such an important part of this game, as we all know. I was able to work with the people who know me really well and they were able to guide me through it, and of course I did a lot of work myself.
4. How much responsibility have you taken on this year since you’re a senior? Especially with three new players on the roster this semester?
I am probably a leader; I think it runs in the family. I tend to be a little bit too dominating sometimes; I have to work with that. I do enjoy sharing my experiences. I have a lot of experience with golf because I have been playing on the national team since I was 14, playing a lot of tournaments. I really enjoy telling everyone about it and teaching people about it because we haven’t all been that fortunate to get to play that many tournaments. I hope I set a good standard for work ethic and being honest and truthful in the way I do things, and of course being a good teammate.
5. You’re a journalism major. What do you plan to do with that?
I’m going to graduate in December and then go home, hopefully play the (Ladies) European Tour Q-School in January next year. Hopefully make the European Tour, play there, see how it’s going. If I like the life of a professional – of course it’s going to be a lot different than college – (I’ll) see how it’s going, and then maybe in five or six years come back to the States and play here if everything is going well. I’m looking forward to going home and seeing my family and friends and connecting with them . . . but I love it here.
I do really like what I’m studying, so I could definitely see myself doing that down the road. I’m in PR; that’s my focus.