5 Things: UCLA all smiles with Preview lead
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The leaderboard spaced out on a sunny Saturday at the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview as teams took advantage of clear skies and dry conditions. Here are five things to take away from the second round at Vanderbilt Legends Club’s North Course:
1. Intimidation factor: Huddled next to the 18th green post round, UCLA looked a little menacing in all-black uniforms. Then a burst of laughter erupted from the Bruin camp and destroyed the image. It couldn’t be farther from reality, anyway.
Mason Rudolph Fall Preview
Check out images from the 2011 Mason Rudolph Fall Preview at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, TN.
There’s little off-course drama for UCLA – in fact, head coach Carrie Forsyth barely noticed the addition of freshmen Erynne Lee and Kyle Roig this year.
“Every year you’re like, ‘I don’t know what the team is going to be like next year, we bring in new blood, it’s going to be different,’” she explained. “And it always is a little bit different, but it’s been like seamless with our new freshmen.”
The defending national champions often have good reason to smile, like when they finished Round 2 with a six-shot lead on second-place Alabama. UCLA shot 5-under 283 in the second round and is at 3 over for the tournament. It’s a good life when your throw-away score is 2-over 74.
“Overall I just think for the most part the girls hit it a little bit better today, really just picking good targets and we positioned ourselves well on the tougher shots and we putted well today, made a lot of birdies,” Forsyth said.
With the course dried out from a Friday rain, Forsyth explained that the team was able to chase pins with shorter irons into greens, which resulted in more birdies. There were 16 to be exact, including three from Tiffany Lua and four from Ani Gulugian as the pair led the team with rounds of 3-under 69. Lee added a 72 and Roig a 73 to round out the Bruin’s team score.
2. Good memories: By the time Jennifer Kirby reached the 18th tee, she was 6 under for the day and with a scorecard completely devoid of bogeys. The Alabama junior needed only to avoid the water hazard lining the right side of the fairway at the 504-yard par 5.
That’s exactly where she hit it.
“There’s so much room left and I knew that and I still hit it there,” Kirby said.
What happened next could be considered a lesson in both anger control and course management. Kirby let out a barey noticeable sigh as she stuffed her driver back in her golf bag, took a drop, then dropped a 20-footer for par that left her card without a blemish. As gallery members at the 18th gushed about the round that put her four shots ahead of the closest competitor, Kirby walked off the green with the same nonchalance she had displayed for the previous 17 holes.
“My putting was a lot better today than it has been in a little while,” Kirby said. “I’ve been hitting it well the past few weeks so it was just nice to put it together. I missed a few greens but I managed to get up and down every one so that helped.”
Kirby’s round helped bump Alabama from T-3 to solo second on the team leaderboard
Another detail worth noting: The last time Kirby shot 6 under was during the final round at last year’s Fall Preview, when ’Bama beat LSU by a single shot for the title.
3. Biggest movers: Duke and Virginia made up the most ground in Round 2, climbing from T-12 to T-5 with rounds of 2-over 286. Aside from UCLA, they were the only teams to shoot sub-par rounds.
Duke head coach Dan Brooks explained that the leaderboard climb isn’t what you might think: “Sometimes when you don’t have such a great day you make a mistake when you do something different. What we did great today was we did exactly the same thing we did yesterday – I thought everybody was patient yesterday and they played hard, kept their chins up.”
Duke leaned heavily on junior Lindy Duncan, who is T-5 after a 3-under 69, but that’s no surprise. Overheard from the Duke contingent at the ninth green (the Blue Devils started on the back) as Duncan stuffed her approach and made birdie: “Only she could do something like that.” It was preceded by raucous cheering.
“(Lindy) is a great leader by example, she works real hard and she is all heart,” Brooks said. “This girl really wants to be a great player and she will be a great player. She’ll be one of the ones that makes it out there because she studies the game and she studies herself.”
First-round leader USC made the biggest move in the opposite direction, falling to seventh after a 12-over 300. Rachel Morris shaved five shots from Round 1 to shoot 75 and Sophia Popov (72) and Lisa McCloskey (73) remained consistent, but the Trojans lost ground with their fourth score. They are 13 shots behind UCLA.
4. Keep an eye on the Tar Heels: After two rounds at the Preview, North Carolina is living up to its preseason No. 5 ranking. The team shot 2-over 290 and is solo third.
You might say North Carolina is still on a high from a runner-up at last year’s East Regional and an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Last week’s runner-up finish at the Cougar Classic didn’t hurt anything. Regardless, the Tar Heels are trying not to think about the ranking. It’s a team effort every week, with Casey Grice (T-8) and Courtney Gunter (T-15) at the front of the charge for the Preview.
“We don’t have a superstar,” assistant coach Patricia Early said. “For us, it’s really a team effort – everyone plays well on a different day. They can all rely on each other.”
5. Injured list: Barely noticeable on Erica Popson’s left wrist is a tan line from the brace she uses to stabilize a left thumb injury she battled throughout her first two years on the Tennessee roster. The injury left Popson sidelined again at the Fall Preview after opening the season at the Cougar Classic, where she led after Round 2 and went on to finish second.
Popson opened with 3-over 75 in Round 1 of the Preview, but then was forced to take the bench. She said there’s a possibility of surgery in the off-season.
“I just gotta get to the off season,” she said.
The Lady Vol roster also is without senior Nathalie Mansson, who is out with a wrist injury. When healthy, Popson and Mansson are key to Tennessee’s success. The Lady Vols are T-17 in Franklin without them.
“I’m looking forward to the day that both of them are healthy,” head coach Judi Pavon said.