Central: Ole Miss on the edge of NCAAs
Lance Ringler and Asher Wildman break down all of the action from Round 2 of the NCAA Women's Regionals.
Leader: Southern Cal (25-over 601)
Individual leader: Lizette Salas, USC (even-par 144)
The top 8: 2. Arizona State (609), 3. Oklahoma State (613), 4. Oregon (621), 5. Purdue (623), 6. New Mexico (624), 7. Denver (625); T-8. Mississippi, Michigan State, Georgia (626)
Close behind: 11. Kent State (628), 12. Florida State (629), 13. San Diego State (635), 14. Louisville (639).
Can’t-Miss. party: Parents and grandparents stood at the four corners of the Ole Miss tent Friday afternoon, trying to keep it upright. The winds were howling in Columbus, Ind., but the Rebels could enjoy their homecooked lunch because they were done playing. Mississippi began the day tied for eighth and, after a windswept morning, finished tied for eighth with Michigan State and Georgia.
“This is a beast of a course, and then you add in 30-mph wind,” head coach Michele Drinkard said. “I like where we are.”
Ole Miss, legendary for its tailgating before football games at The Grove, has 18 supporters on the road this week. After Thursday’s round, they grilled sliders in the grass parking lot at Otter Creek. Drinkard refers to the group as “The Traveling Grove.” Her team certainly eats the best. Parents opened the back doors of their SUVs as players filled plastic red plates with something other than a boxed lunch. The Grove has been referred to as the “Holy Grail” of tailgating, so this group knows how to take the show on the road.
In other news outside the tent, Natalie Gleadall one-hopped a 52-degree wedge in for eagle on the 17th hole and shot 77, as did fellow sophomore Haley Millsap. The Rebels’ best player, senior Sara Grantham, struggled with an 81.
Ole Miss has five NCAA regional appearances but has yet to qualify for the NCAA Championship. The Rebels entered this week seeded 15th.
“This year,” Drinkard said matter-of-factly, “we’re going.”
Great expectations: Oregon doesn’t feel like an 11th-seeded team. So far at the Central Regional, the Ducks aren’t playing like one, either. Oregon is in fourth place after a second-round 316. Ria Quiazon took over the program last June and brought a plenty of her own playing experience to the table. She remembers the brutally cold, windy, rainy conditions of her last NCAA Championship playing for California at Purdue’s Kampen Course in 2003, and told her team to expect anything.
“The diversity of our schedule really helped prepare us for anything,” Quiazon said.
Oregon hasn’t qualified for an NCAA Championship since 2000. The Ducks still are riding high from a school-best third-place finish at the Pac-10 Championship. Junior Kendra Little continues to pace the Ducks in Columbus, despite a second-round 79. Little is tied for fourth, five strokes behind SoCal’s Lizette Salas.
From the Happy-to-be-Here Dept. (or maybe not after today’s round): The Detroit Mercy Titans are making their first appearance at NCAA Regionals after claiming their first Horizon League title. The program is only in its sixth year. Four of five Detroit Mercy starters hail from Michigan, with Ontario native Alex Aversa rounding out the squad. The Titans have yet to break 300 this season, making the Central Regional a tremendous learning experience. They finished the second round in 23rd place, 105 strokes behind leader USC.
Tough enough: Players keep mentioning that this course reminds them of a USGA setup. Well, Otter Creek hosted the 1991 U.S. Amateur Public Links and is routinely chosen as site of the Indiana State Amateur. The rough is tough, the greens are challenging and it’s playing at 6,400-plus yards (too long) in wicked winds. Nine players failed to break 90 on Friday.
Don’t expect any flukes out of this region. They will earn their tickets.
Quote of the day: “Go to the Under Armour Outlet, exit 76B,” – FSU interim coach Kate Golden on how to handle the elements for Saturday’s round. The weather here in Columbus is expected to drop 30 degrees tomorrow.