Central: UCLA rolls, Minnesota heads to NCAAs
Team winner: UCLA, 26-over-par 890
Individual winner: Stephanie Kono (UCLA) and Megan McChrystal (LSU) 2-over 218
Also moving on: 2. LSU (894), 3. Minnesota (897), 4. Arkansas (899), 5. Notre Dame (901), 6. Ohio State (905), 7. Stanford (908), 8. Wake Forest (909)
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No surprise here: Led by Stephanie Kono’s 4-under 68 in the final round, UCLA led wire-to-wire to win the Central Regional. The Bruins, which fell behind LSU early in the last round, finished with an 890 total – four shots better than LSU. Kono finished with a 2-over 218 total to share medalist honors with LSU’s Megan McChrystal.
The victory was UCLA’s fifth win in 10 starts this year and for Kono, who is ranked No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, it was her first victory this year and fourth of her career.
“It’s always nice to win,” Kono said. “We still have a lot to work on this upcoming week to prepare for nationals.”
Kono’s coach feels the same way.
“I feel good about it, but I still don’t think we played that well today. Obviously Stephanie did, but there is still some stuff we need to clean up before we get to nationals if we are going to compete,” UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth said.
Last year UCLA finished second to Arizona at the West Regional and a just a few weeks ago the Bruins placed third at the Pac-10 Conference Championship. A win this week helps give the Bruins, which will be considered amongst the favorites, some momentum.
“It’s nice to win the week before nationals and get your confidence up,” Forsyth said.
Stop the presses: One year ago Minnesota was left out of regional play and was considered one of the first teams out. This season was the first time Minnesota had competed in regional competition since 2001 and they made the most of their opportunity.
The Gophers, the regional’s No. 14 seed, turned in its finest performance of the season with a 33-over 897 to tie for third place, finishing seven shots behind tournament winner UCLA and just three shots back of LSU.
“It’s exciting. It’s good stuff,” Minnesota senior Samantha Sommers said.
Sommers, who is one four seniors on the Gophers roster, led the way on the par-72, 6,208-yard Warren Golf Course with rounds of 73-73-76 for a 6-over 222. Sommers tied for sixth place, while senior Teresa Puga (223) also recorded a top-10 finish with tie for eighth.
The last time the Minnesota women’s golf program competed at the national championship was in 1989. The Gophers will be heading to College Station, Texas, in two weeks after placing third here at the NCAA Central Regional.
Advancing to the national championship caps a spring season that has been full of distractions for the Gophers.
Former associate women’s coach Katie Brenny, who resigned last fall after two months on the job, filed a lawsuit Jan. 11 against the University of Minnesota claiming that as a lesbian she faced discrimination from director of golf John Harris.
The distractions might have helped the team unite to make a run to the finals in quest of bettering the school’s 12th-place finish in 1989.
“It’s brought us a lot closer, Sommers said. “We are always there to help and support and whatever we need, the teammates are there to help. We have motivated each other.”
The Gophers were near the top of the leaderbaord throughout regional play. After the opening round, Minnesota was alone in fourth and after 36 holes the Gophers were tied for second with UCLA, however it was earlier in the week when Sommers felt the team realized they had a legitimate chance.
“After we played our practice round we all kind of felt like this was it,” Sommers said. “We thought it about weeks before and we said if we play good, we are going to nationals and after the practice round we felt it, we knew it, kept going and we are going now.”
Short shots: Play was suspended at 2:58 p.m. and resumed at 5:15 p.m. due to lightning in the area … Duke’s consecutive streak of advancing to the national championship was snapped after the Blue Devils placed ninth. Duke, which has won five NCAA titles, had played in the last 13 national championships … Another Blue Devil streak comes to a end with the Blue Devils’ season ending in South Bend. Duke has won at least one tournament in each of the last 29 seasons and head coach Dan Brooks, who is the NCAA leader in all-time victories, had at least one title in each of his 27 seasons in Durham …Notre Dame will be making its first trip the national championship. Playing on their home course, the Fighting Irish placed fifth … Behind the play of freshman Emily Tubert, who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship here on the Warren Golf Course last summer, Arkansas scored better in each round to climb to a fourth-place finish. ... After failing to advance out of regionals a year ago, Wake Forest rallied down the stretch to clip Duke for the eighth and final qualifying spot. The Deacons were without head coach Diane Dailey, who did not make the trip after suffering a broken arm.