5 things: Oregon takes Conference Challenge lead

Oregon junior Cheyenne Hickle

Oregon junior Cheyenne Hickle

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WOLCOTT, Colo. – A brisk wind and tricky hole locations highlighted Round 2 of the Golfweek Conference Challenge at Red Sky Golf Club’s Fazio Course. Here are five things to take into the final round:

1.) Friendly rivalry: An environmentally sensitive area of the Fazio Course – one of many – nearly bumped Oregon from the top of the leaderboard late in the second round. After taking an incorrect drop at the 15th hole from that area, Oregon sophomore Raphaela Dyer was disqualified from the tournament. It caused Oregon’s team total to go from 10-over 298 to 16-over 304, and cut the Ducks’ lead from nine shots to five.

“(Raphaela) fought really hard for what would have been a 76 today – 76 probably felt a lot like even par today, with some of those hole locations,” head coach Ria Scott said.

Though a disappointing ending to an exhausting day in the mountains, Scott said the team did a better job of fighting the big numbers in Round 2. The Ducks went straight to the practice putting green after Round 1, and succeeded in eliminating errors on a daunting course.

“It’s really risk-reward, especially on these par 5s where if you do want to hit driver, you have to pipe it down a really narrow area,” Scott said of Red Sky.

Oregon will take the lead into the final round after UC Davis held it for much of Round 2. The teams are connected in an unusual rivalry that dates to the early 2000s in Berkeley, Calif. Scott (’03) and UC Davis head coach Anne Walker (’02) played collegiately for the Golden Bears, and it’s just a matter of coincidence that they often show up at the same tournaments now that they’re coaching their own West Coast teams.

“We don’t plan it that way – we just happen to be best friends and both have really high goals in coaching for our teams,” Scott said.

UC Davis dropped to solo fifth by the end of the round, six shots behind Oregon. Ole Miss, Denver and Pepperdine share second place at 30-over 606.

2.) Red tie: Tuesday began with three players in a tie for the lead after opening with 3-under 69s. After the second round, only Ole Miss’ Natalie Gleadall and Pepperdine’s Grace Na remained. Both shot 2-over 74 as Coastal Carolina’s Kaitlin Higginbotham dropped to T-14 with a 9-over 81.

Gleadall carded double bogeys at Nos. 11 and 13 on Tuesday. She also had four birdies.

“The wind was a challenge,” Gleadall said. “I didn’t hit my driver as well (as yesterday).”

Na was more consistent, with four bogeys and two birdies, including one at the par-5 finishing hole.

3.) Exposing its teeth: The second round began with a light breeze that quickly built to a brisk wind. Tough pin placements on quick, sloping greens – perhaps the most testing was at the par-3 10th, where the hole was perched atop a ridge in the middle of the green – drove scores up. The field scoring average for Round 1 was 77.1, but rose to 79.94 in Round 2.

Chattanooga sophomore Marion Duvernay was 3 under through her first six holes, but double bogeyed two of her last three (Nos. 7 and 8) for a 77 that left her T-8.

“I think it was a day you had to play really smart,” Duvernay said.

But for all her end-of-the-day struggles, Duvernay walked away praising a course that “you have to really play.” There’s no hitting and hoping at Red Sky.

“The greens are amazing," she said. "I love the design of the holes.”

Frida Castillo, a Coastal Carolina freshman from Cordoba, Mexico, displayed exactly the kind of game Duvernay was talking about. Castillo had 5 up-and-downs in a second-round 78, including one from the back-left side of No. 12 to a front pin. It was one of the most difficult placements of the day.

“The pins were very, very tough, and the greens were not very receptive,” Castillo said.

4.) Finding a way to score: The Conference Challenge has been a story of feast and famine. There have been 11 eagles through two rounds for the field of 90 players. Five of those came at the par-5 second hole.

Ole Miss senior Ashley Lance made an ace at the par-3 ninth, and the cheers from her dad and grandfather echoed across much of the front nine. Lance hit a knock-down 7-iron at the 150-yard hole that rolled to the middle of the green and dropped into the hole.

“I wasn’t even watching 100 percent,” Lance said.

Lance calls the shot her first legitimate hole-in-one. Her only other ace came in the seventh grade at a 60-yard par 3. She shot 9-over 81 and is T-57 with her 159 total.

5.) Biggest mover: Tulsa head coach Randy Keck stood on the 10th tee at the beginning of the second round not minding the increasing wind one bit. The Golden Hurricane know how to play golf in a Midwest breeze.

“We see windy, fast conditions all the time,” Keck said. “Seems like every tournament we go to, when the weather gets tough, we move toward the top of the leaderboard.”

And sure enough, despite a slow start at the par-3 10th, site of perhaps the most brutal pin placement of the day, Tulsa climbed six spots on the leaderboard in Round 2. The Golden Hurricane will enter the final round tied for seventh with Coastal Carolina.

Last week at Tulsa's home tournament, the Dale McNamara Invitational, Oklahoma State won, courtesy of a 21-shot turnaround. Keck has that kind of finish on the brain at Red Sky.

“I’m going to use that as motivation and be excited that we’re four shots out of second and nine shots out of first,” Keck said.

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