Work finally pays off for Iowa State

Senior Pennapa Pulsawath was named to the All-Big 12 Championship.

Senior Pennapa Pulsawath was named to the All-Big 12 Championship.

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By the time the first 48 regional bids had been revealed by the NCAA April 26, Iowa State had yet to celebrate. As the Cyclones waited together with bated breath in head coach Christie Martens’ office, they were beginning to feel they might be in danger of missing postseason action. Again.

It had been 14 years since an Iowa State team earned a bid into regionals – since the end of the 1995-96 season, to be exact. That team included LPGA player Beth Bader.

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After being left out of the East and Central regional sites, Iowa State’s hopes started to fall again this year. Things continued to look grim as team after team was named to the West Regional field, and still no mention of the Cyclones.

“It was pretty nerve-racking to wait that long,” said Martens, who had guessed Iowa State would be placed in the Central Regional.

The good news finally came with only seven teams left to be called, four of which had already earned a regional ticket via an automatic qualifying spot.

When Iowa State was named the 18th-seeded team in the West Regional, the Cyclones erupted in cheers and high fives, then breathed a collective sigh of relief.

This spring not only marks Martens’ first trip to regionals with Iowa State, but it’s also the first year she’ll graduate one of her own recruiting classes. Now in her sixth year as head coach – and with a contract extension through 2015 – Martens is seeing her hard work pay off. The Cyclones not only shook the postseason monkey off their backs, but also came in fourth at the Big 12 Championship, their best finish in history.

Did your team make it?

Check out the regional breakdowns

Ranked No. 53 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, Iowa State needed that solid conference performance to secure its regional bid. The team set a goal of breaking 300 in each round of the Big 12s. After opening the week on the number, the Cyclones finished with rounds of 305 and 301.

“You always could have done better, but we felt like we went out and played solid every day,” Martens said. “We felt like we left it on the golf course.”

Martens had a feeling this could be the team to break the postseason pattern after watching her players buckle down and work like never before this season. The Cyclones had two top-3 finishes and at one point reached the top 25 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

For senior captain Pennapa Pulsawath, a regional bid couldn’t have come at a better time. This is her last hurrah with the Cyclones, and a postseason appearance has been on her mind since freshman year. Pulsawath, who was named to the All-Big 12 Conference team, also feels better about walking away from the team knowing that the upcoming regional trip will inspire the underclassmen to practice even harder next year.

“I truly believe that next year is going to be good for them, too, because we’re going to have another good player coming in next year (Abbie Horan), so it’s going to be exciting to see how much they’re going to improve and how far they’re going to get,” she said.

The pressure has lifted considerably now for Pulsawath and her team as they prepare for the spot they earned in the West Regional.

“Golf is just a game and we just try our best and get the most out of it, and we’ll see what we can get from there,” she said. “If we qualify for nationals, it’s going to be great for us. If not, there’s nothing we can do about it because we’re going to do our best out there.”

Well put, Captain.

• • •

FIRST TIME’S A CHARM: With another conference season in the books, two schools can begin gearing up for their maiden postseason appearances. Penn and Detroit Mercy both won their first conference titles this year and along with them automatic qualifying spots into regional play.

Penn put the finishing touches on a wire-to-wire victory April 25 at the Ivy League Championship. The Quakers, No. 100 in Golfweek’s rankings, beat Yale by 22 shots and received the No. 23 seed in the West Regional.

No. 202 Detroit Mercy got its first regional bid after a nine-shot victory over Youngstown State April 25 at the Horizon League Championship. The Titans will play in the Central Regional as the No. 23 seed.

• • •

Five questions with Minnesota junior Teresa Puga, who qualified for the West Regional as an individual.

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Teresa Puga

1. Minnesota just missed a bid into regionals as a team. What was the reaction to that?

My team was kind of disappointed because we thought we were going to get in and it was kind of sad because we were kind of like thinking that we were going to go and everything. It was kind of sad to find out when we didn’t go.

2. You were selected as an individual. What are your thoughts on competing without the team?

We compete as a team. I know that to do good as a team, you have to do good as an individual. I’m sad that I’m not going with the team, but I’m happy to get to go as an individual. I’m just going to play like I do every time.

3. As a junior returning to a team that will gain some strong freshman, what are you most looking forward to in your final year of college golf?

I heard that we got really good girls coming up, so I’m like really, really excited for these girls. I’ll be a senior on the team, and obviously I really want to do really well next year. I’m really hoping for these girls to come up because I know we are going to do well.

4. You’re from Coruna, Spain. How did you end up in the Twin Cities?

I was looking for a school. My dream was coming to the U.S. to play golf; that was my dream. I always tried to get here, since I was 13. I was trying to do my best in golf and school to be able to get here. I was playing the British Girls and my coach went there for recruitment and she found me and she liked me. ... I love it here; it’s nice. In the winter, we don’t get to play as much golf. I wish we could, but the landscape is awesome. I really like it. It’s really super nice here. I really like this place.

5. You hold many of the scoring records at Minnesota. Any other records you have your eye on before your career ends next year?

I guess, try to improve those. I’ll always try to improve whatever I have, no matter if it’s a record or not. I guess just try to play good.

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