College stars flock to Argentina for WWATC
Lance Ringler's College Golf Page
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – When Sophia Popov drained a 15-footer for birdie on Thursday, the German gallery erupted with the biggest cheer heard all week at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. It was a strong day for the Germans, who are anchored by two college players: Popov (USC) and Pia Halbig (Cal). Germany vaulted into third place Oct. 21, trailing Korea by four strokes midway through the tournament.
“I’ve played the European Championships six times, and the Worlds, it’s just another level,” said Halbig, who also represented Germany two years ago in Australia. This has been a standout fall for the Cal senior, who describes this stretch as the best golf of her life.
Halbig shot 67 on Thursday, setting off an avalanche of congratulatory hugs around the 18th green. She credits the surge to her putting, which caused her great grief last year.
Halbig is currently fifth in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. She won the Mason Rudolph and finished third in her other two events.
Popov, a freshman at Southern Cal, birdied three of her last four holes to shoot 68, but was still perturbed by the three-putt she had on 17. It doesn’t take long to recognize that Popov is a fiery competitor.
“I could just feel the team behind me when I made my putt on 18,” she said.
Germany has yet to win this championship, though they are rarely outside the top 10.
The Women’s World Amateur Team Championship has all but shut down the women’s college game as the following 38 players from colleges in the United States donned their national uniforms this week:
Jennifer Kirby, Canada
Camilla Lennarth, Sweden
Carlota Ciganda, Spain
Guilia Molinaro, Italy
Kelli Shean, South Africa
Cydney Clanton, United States
Diana Fernandez, Paraguay
Isadora Stapff, Brazil
Pia Halbig, Germany
California U. (Pa.)
Dianne Luke, Malaysia
Tonje Daffinrud, Norway
Laetitia Beck, Israel
Mia Piccio, Philippines
Macarena Silva, Chile
Maria Salinas, Peru
Marta Silva Zamora, Spain
Charlotte Lorentzen, Denmark
Martina Gavier, Argentina
Sara-Maude Juneau, Canada
Martine De Gannes, Trinidad And Tobago
Danielle Kang, United States
Laura Gonzalez-Escallon, Belgium
Susana Benavides, Bolivia
San Diego State
Christine Wong, Canada
Tinna Johannsdottir, Iceland
Sally Watson, Scotland
Sanna Nuutinen, Finland
Rachel Raastad, Norway
Maria Jose Camey, Guatemala
Paola Valerio, Mexico
Krista Puisite, Latvia
Mara Puisite, Latvia
Alexandra Gibson, Peru
Signy Arnorsdottie, Iceland
Marita Engzelius, Norway
Therese Koelbaek, Denmark
Lisa McCloskey, Colombia
Sophia Popov, Germany
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Short shots: Five of the top six finishers at the Harvard Invitational were freshmen, with Yale’s Seo Hee Moon leading the way with an 8-shot win over Harvard freshman Bonnie Hu. . . . Arkansas-Little Rock sophomore Emelie Westrup led the Trojans to a 15-shot routing at the MSU/Payne Stewart Memorial Oct. 19. Westrup, the younger sister of Duramed Futures Tour player and Florida State standout Caroline Westrup, finished T-2 for her second top-5 finish this year. . . . Nova Southeastern, the defending Division II national champion, won its third consecutive NSU Shark Invitational Oct. 12. It’s the second win this season for the Sharks.
A look ahead...
What: The Landfall Tradition
When: Oct. 22-24
Where: CC of Landfall (Dye), Wilmington, N.C.
Why it’s important: UCLA, No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and Duke, No. 5, are the highest-ranked teams in this field, to be played at last year’s national championship venue. Expect to hear noise from Virginia, (No. 8) and Notre Dame (No. 19) also – two programs unaffected by the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.
• • •
What: Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown
When: Oct. 25-27
Where: Boulder Creek Golf Club, Boulde City, Nev.
Why it’s important: Arizona, ranked No. 11 by Golfweek, hasn’t been in action since the Golfweek Women’s Conference Challenge Sept. 28, when the Wildcats fell short of Virginia. Oregon (No. 30) also found early success this season with a third- and first-place finish in their first two events.
• • •
Five questions with Yale freshman Seo Hee Moon, who won her third collegiate title Oct. 17 at the Harvard Invitational.
1.) You led Yale to a win over your rival Harvard last week. How special was that win for you?
After the first day, we were down by three. We had a team meeting, and coach was like, ‘Go out there and have fun, play your best and every putt counts.’ ... I knew the other two girls that I played with – it was Harvard and Yale together. We chatted a lot and had a lot of laughs. At the end of 18 holes I realized that I was 5 under going into the last hole. The last hole was a par 5 and I had about 15 feet for birdie and I made it.
2.) You had a hole-in-one in the final round of the Harvard Invitational. Tell me about it.
It was hole No. 13 and it was a downhill par 3. I hit a 7-iron and I watched it. It hit about 7 or 8 feet in front of the hole so I’m like, ‘OK a par,’ and I walk away from the tee box and my coach was up there with me and she was watching and she’s like, ‘Wait, the ball is still rolling.’ Two seconds later she’s like, ‘Oh my God, it went in!’ I turned around and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, really?’ I completely freaked out. It was my first hole-in-one ever.
3.) The Course at Yale is Golfweek’s Best Campus Course. What do you think of it?
I definitely think the course isn’t easy to play. It’s really hilly and it’s hard to walk. These greens are “gee-normous.” You can have up to like a 60-foot putt. Definitely challenging, and I think it helps when we go and play other golf courses because the greens are definitely smaller.
4.) You have had immediate success as a freshman – you won your first college event by five shots. Was the transition pretty smooth for you?
I know a lot of the other freshmen on the other teams because I played a lot of junior golf with them, and so it didn’t actually feel that much different transferring into college from junior golf.
5.) What are the academics like at Yale? Have you chosen a major?
Academics are definitely a big part of sports here at Yale. I haven’t chosen a major, I’m undeclared but I think right now I’m leaning toward biology or pre-med. It’s definitely something where you have to make sure you manage your time well between doing work and golfing. It hasn’t been too bad so far.
– Additional reporting by Julie Williams