The Bruins have turned around their season tremendously since the return of senior Tiffany Lua. Coincidence? No.
In the fall, the team didn’t finish better than eighth in four tournaments. They accomplished the feat three times, at the Fall Preview, the Stanford Intercollegiate and the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational. In the Golfweek Collegiate Invitational, the first tournament of the season, the team finished ninth.
Since the return of Lua, UCLA has climbed to No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and has three players ranked in the top 100. Lua probably merits a mention in that top 100, but hasn’t played enough events to be ranked. She has an overall record of 238-9-5.
The team has won three of its last four tournaments, the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge, the Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate and most recently the Hawaii Spring Invitational. They had a chance to win their home tournament, but it was spoiled by crosstown rival USC. The Bruins finished second.
The women made history in the final round of the Hawaii Spring Invitational in Kapalua. Their 12-under 276 in the final round tied the school record for the lowest single round. They made 25 birdies March 27 and overcame a five-shot deficit to win by four.
Since starting the spring season, players have accumulated 10 top-10 finishes compared to two in the fall. Erynne Lee won the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge for her first win of the season and the second of her career.
Lua hasn’t won, but has placed in the top five in all four of her starts, including a runner-up finish at the Bruin Wave Invitational. In relation to par for the year, she is 4 over and has a 72.0 stroke average.
The 2011 NCAA champs are rounding into form just in time for the postseason.