5 Things: Iowa State claims Central District
PARRISH, Fla. – Iowa State arrived at River Wildnerness Golf Club this week with some unfinished business. After falling just five strokes short of knocking off top-ranked Alabama at last week’s Lady Puerto Rico Classic, the Cyclones finished the job Tuesday at the Central District Invitational. Iowa State finished atop a 15-team field – which included five teams ranked in the top 20 by Golfweek – to earn its second title of the 2010-11 season. Here are five things you need to know from the event:
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1.) Tip of the iceberg? Some players dream of winning the U.S. Open, the Masters, the British Open – practicing exactly what that winning putt will feel like time and time again. For the past four years, Laurence Herman and Victoria Stefansen have allowed a different dream to play out in practice: One that involves a Big 12 Championship trophy. After notching win No. 2, it might be time for a goal adjustment, one that makes that dream a reality.
“Obviously with regionals and nationals, you never know how that’s going to go, but to be Big 12 champs would be so amazing,” Stefansen said.
The past year has been historic for the Cyclones, beginning last spring with their first trip to a regional in 14 years. A win at the Challenge at Onion Creek in November snapped a six-year winless streak, and a near-miss in Puerto Rico set the stage for their triumph at Central District. Iowa State shot a 5-under 283 in the final round to finish at 4-over 868, nine shots better than LSU.
With her four years in Ames soon to expire, Herman isn’t surprised.
“At the beginning of the fall, the beginning of the year actually, I had a feeling – I think everyone had a feeling – that we had the best team we could have at Iowa State,” she said. “We definitely knew we were at the top of our games.”
Herman, of Belgium, and Stefanson, of Denmark, complete an entirely international Iowa State squad. The remaining three players hail from Thailand. Head coach Christie Martens, who at times gives off such a maternal vibe on the course that she seems more like a parent than a coach, won’t take any of the credit for Tuesday’s victory. It came down to good play, she says, not words of wisdom from her. And this time, that play lasted all the way to the 18th.
“I think it’s just almost like contagious – one person starts playing well, then just everyone was making birdies,” she said. “Last week didn’t really finish well, they had it going kind of like they did today but didn’t really close it well, so it was super exciting today that they all kind of kept it going and were able to finish strong.”
Look for the Cyclones to advance to bigger and better things come spring.
2.) Proving she belongs: LSU freshman Austin Ernst didn’t get to travel with the team until the third tournament of her freshman campaign. Since breaking through in qualifying at the University Club in Baton Rouge, however, Ernst has never looked back.
The freshmen entered the final round three strokes off the lead, but shot an even-par 72 Tuesday to beat second-round leader Brooke Beeler, of TCU, by a single shot. Ernst finished at 3-under 213.
“It’s hard to qualify sometimes, getting over that hump. I make my freshmen earn it,” explained head coach Karen Bahsen. “She would just barely miss out and we have a lot of depth on our team. Once she got in the lineup she played great.”
Ernst and senior Megan McChrystal, Golfweek’s top-ranked player, led the LSU charge Tuesday as the fourth-ranked Tigers attempted to protect their second-round lead. The team stumbled on the final holes, just as they had during the first two rounds. As Bahsen pointed out, that’s not usually LSU’s style.
“It just gets us more determined to go get back out there and keep working hard,” she said. “It makes us very hungry.”
3.) Getting over the hump: Texas A&M head coach Trelle McCombs still remembers the shock of the Fall Preview, where the Aggies stumbled to a 16th-place finish on their home course. After a third-place finish at the Central District, they are steadily going about putting it behind them.
The Aggies, No. 38, finished at 17-over 881 Tuesday, and claimed three players inside the top 25. McCombs said this semester is all about making the pieces fit together for this young team.
“I think the main thing with us playing well out of the gate was the fact that our team was a little more cohesive,” she said. “We had three freshmen playing in the lineup in the fall, so a little bit of the nerves, a little bit of the upperclassmen not knowing what the freshmen can do.
“We’ve done a few things as a team in the offseason to kind of make that glue stick a little better.”
4.) Round of the week: TCU junior Brooke Beeler shot out of the gate Monday at River Wildnerness. Beeler put together a bogey-free, 7-under 65 in the opening round that was the lowest score of the tournament by four shots.
Beeler, who broke the previous TCU scoring record of 66, had five birdies and an eagle. She almost set the record in November when she opened with a 67 at the Alamo Invitational, then went on to win medalist honors that week.
Beeler couldn’t quite close out another win this week, as she struggled to a final-round 76 for a 2-under 214 total and runner-up honors.
“I just couldn’t make anything,” Beeler said. “I couldn’t get anything to drop.”
5.) What happened to the Razorbacks? Arkansas put together an uncharacteristic 11th-place finish as the team struggled to build any sort of momentum through three rounds in Parrish. The Razorbacks carried the second-best team ranking in the field, entering the event at No. 13.
Kelli Shean record the best Arkansas finish at 3-over 219.