West: Ciganda, ASU dominate in Tempe
Saturday, May 9, 2009
TEMPE, Ariz. – The focus at regional competition is almost always on which teams advance and which teams’ season comes to an end. However, this week at the NCAA West Regional some of that focus shifted to the team that won the event.
From the moment Jaclyn Sweeney hit her first tee shot in the first round, Arizona State never relinquished its place atop the leaderboard. The Sun Devils’ opening 15-under 273 was a school and Karsten Golf Course record.
Arizona State closed with two more sub-par rounds to finish at 22-under 842 and win by 19 shots over USC. The victory and manner in which the Sun Devils won was something head coach Melissa Luellen was hoping for after a third-place finish at the their home event on the same course in early April.
“After a disappointing finish at our home tournament a month ago this was an incredibly satisfying to have everyone come together at a really good time,” Luellen said.
Luellen may have set the tone early by changing things up in the practice round. The Sun Devils’ practice round was not a normal one. There were no practice putts or chips, and no hitting two balls.
“We played straight 18 holes and they made a ton of birdies, and from the practice round on I knew it was going to be a great week,” Luellen said.
Luellen’s squad, No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished the week with 54 birdies. Leading the way was freshman Carlota Ciganda, who recorded rounds of 67-68-71 for a 10-under 206 total to win the tournament individually. Ciganda finished one shot ahead of USC’s Jennifer Song.
Joining Arizona State and USC in the top eight and advancing to the NCAA Championship May 19-22 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., are LSU, TCU, UC Irvine, Texas, Arizona and Pepperdine.
Considering the circumstances, the best round Saturday belonged to Pepperdine. The Waves started the final round in 11th place, nine shots behind the eighth and final qualifying spot.
“We figured if we could all come together ... around even par would be good enough to get us into a playoff or even in, and it actually turned out to be that way,” Pepperdine freshman Jessica Wallace said.
Wallace, who led Pepperdine in the final round with a 3-under 69, and her teammates predicted correctly. The Waves grabbed the eighth and final spot with a 3-under 285 to finish with a 15-over 879 – three shots clear of ninth-place Arkansas.
Arizona State will join No. 2 UCLA as the favorites heading to the championship. The last time Arizona State won a national championship was in 1998, which was the sixth in program history – an all-time best in women’s golf. At the NCAA Championship, the focus is entirely on the top of the leaderboard and the Sun Devils should garner much of that attention.