When Maryland won its third tournament of the season March 27, the John Kirk Panther Intercollegiate, it meant the most wins for a Terrapin team in a single season this side of 2000. The Terrapins played the back nine in 2 under during the final round to beat Mississippi State by six shots, and director of golf Jason Rodenhaver saw it as a big moment for his experienced squad.
“We kept knocking on the door,” he said. “We kind of broke through last week.”
You might say Maryland has spent much of the season on both sides of that metaphorical door. In the past six events, the team has finished runner-up three times and won three times. It might be easy to get sloppy when the success comes week after week, but Maryland seems to be putting it into perspective. For Rodenhaver at least, tournament hardware is something to be cherished.
“Wins are hard to come by,” he said.
Maryland has seen a few pivotal changes in its roster this year. The addition of freshman Juliet Vongphoumy — you may remember her from junior golf, she set an AJGA record (since broken by Emma Talley) of three consecutive tournament victories — has added a solid component to the starting lineup. Junior Christine Shimel, who earned All-ACC honors two years ago as a freshman, is on the rise again, too. The role of team rock belongs to senior Jessica Hollandsworth, who hasn’t missed an event in four years.
What: Bryan National Collegiate
When: April 6-8
Where: Bryan Park Players Course, Greensboro, N.C.
Why it’s important: The premier East Coast event of this week. After breaking its winless streak earlier this spring, another win for Duke would build some strong momentum going into postseason. Tennessee and North Carolina also have the talent for team win, and keep Virginia and North Carolina State on the radar.
Junior Hayley Brown had a record similar to Hollandsworth’s that will snap at this weekend’s Rebel Intercollegiate because of a back injury. She’s seeing a specialist about the pain, and Rodenhaver is keeping his fingers crossed for a speedy return. That will be the key as Maryland looks to make a fourth consecutive NCAA Regional appearance.
“Like I’ve said to my teams over the years, you need all five of them playing well,” Rodenhaver said. “With Hayley healthy, this is by far our deeepest team from top to bottom. Every one of the kids can break 70.”
It could even be the year a Maryland team cracks the national championship for the first time in program history.
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So you’re saying there’s a chance: Top-ranked UCLA earned its fifth win of the season at the Ping/ASU Invitational. They’re now in position to make some UCLA history.
The highest number of team wins in a season for a Bruin team (including postseason) is seven. UCLA accomplished that during the 2003-04 season and again in 2008-09.
UCLA has one more regular-season tournament, and assuming the Bruins make it to the national championship (which seems to be about as safe a bet as you could make), they will have more four more starts on the season. The potential remains to not just break, but shatter said record.
Also of interest is a look at Bruin statistics. Through the Ping/ASU Invitational, individual averages on the UCLA team roster have a short range — from 72.1 to 74.4. In 132 total individual rounds on the season, only one score was above 80. That’s an incredible absence of train wrecks.
Opponents surely are tired of hearing this but the fact remains: There truly is not a weak link on the Bruin team.
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Five questions with UCLA sophomore Ani Gulugian, who won her first collegiate title at the Ping/ASU Invitational.
1. How proud are you of that final-round 71 in such windy conditions?
We had heard the day before that the winds were going to be picking up so we just kind of prepared mentally for it and hit some knock-down shots on the range in the morning, and just went out there and I knew I had to stay patient so I did a pretty good job of that.
2. This is your first collegiate win. How does it feel?
I’m really happy. I’ve been working really hard and I had kind of a weird year last year — I went through some swing changes and such so I’ve been working pretty hard to getting back to the level that I’m used to playing at. So it was kind of satisfying to have the work finally show, and it was nice to be able to prove to myself that I can win in such a strong field. I hadn’t won individually since junior golf.
3. You’re the third Bruin in history to win this event (joining Stephanie Kono and Charlotte Mayorkas). How special is that for you?
It’s really special. I know Tifanny (Lua) plays really well there every year and I really like that course also. It’s really really a great feeling.
4. You’re in the middle of about a two-week stretch of downtime before UCLA’s final regular-season tournament, then postseason. How much schoolwork do you have to get caught up on, or can you totally focus on golf?
When we came back (from Ping) I kind of got into power yoga, so I’m doing power yoga with some of my teammates. I really like that. Catching up on schoolwork, have a bunch of reading to do. Just kind of fine-tuning my game a little bit, playing matches against some of the team. Yesterday we had chipping contests against each other so it was fun.
5. The Ping/ASU was UCLA’s fifth win this year. Everybody talked about your team being so dominant this year, did you think it would be this dominant?
Yes. We go into every tournament expecting to win, not to sound cocky or anything, but we just prepare really hard. You go there to win, that’s the mindset that we have every tournament we step into.