Top 10 NCAA Women's Championship moments
Women's NCAA Championship: Round 1
Check out images from Legends Golf Club, the site of the 2012 NCAA Women's Championship.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – This week marks my 10th NCAA Championship. In that time, players whom I’ve covered at this tournament have gone on to play professional golf, quit golf, get a job, get married and have babies. I can no longer eat the brownie every day at media dining or drink all the Cokes in the cooler. Perhaps the most disappointing development in that time: Fans no longer ask how I played. Here in the heart of country music, I’m reminded of Tracy Lawrence’s twangy tune, “Time Marches On.”
The best part about covering college golf is that I get to know the up-and-comers before they win LPGA titles. Last week, Azahara Munoz won the Sybase Match Play Championship. She played four years at Arizona State, winning the 2008 NCAA title as an individual. Two weeks before that, 2007 NCAA champion Stacy Lewis won the LPGA event in Mobile, Ala.
To commemorate my 10th, I’ve put together a list of memories. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 10 years in this business, it’s that everyone likes a good list.
10. Laugh out loud: My first NCAA Championship was held at Purdue’s Kampen Course. The event that sticks out the most happened off the course: my introduction to senior skit night.
I can still see Laura Myerscough (now Ianello), standing at the front of the room imitating Arizona coach Greg Allen. She was popping her collar, joking around about how Allen – one of the few male coaches at the time – thought he was so hot. Allen, now the head coach at Vanderbilt, claims to have blocked that evening from his mind. But Ianello, who now coaches at her alma mater and is in charge of this week’s senior skit, confirmed my memory.
In later years, Duke’s Liz Janangelo and USC’s Irene Cho would give fantastic impressions of their parents watching golf. Rules officials were targeted annually.
9. Arkansas’ ace: Stacy Lewis made a big impression in college. Few had heard of the scrawny kid from Texas until she rebounded from back surgery at Arkansas and started winning. It’s hard to remember individual rounds, but I haven’t forgotten that Lewis shot 66 in the final round of the 2006 and 2007 NCAA Championships, winning the latter by four strokes. Lewis said yesterday that she hadn’t even considered turning professional until after she won NCAAs.
8. Duke, Duke and Duke: For a while there, I was running out of things to say about the Duke dynasty. The Blue Devils won three consecutive NCAA titles, from 2005 to 2007. Coach Dan Brooks liked to carry a small team, and they were all All-Americans. I asked Aussie Alison Whitaker what Brooks said to the team the night before the final round in ’07. “Pass the salt,” Whitaker said of their meal at Chipotle. Brooks said his job wasn’t about impassioned speeches but rather building good habits.
7. Can I watch from the media room?: The most beautiful and miserable championship of the past 10 years took place in Sunriver, Ore., in 2005. I remember a local resident telling me that it snowed one year on July 4. That about summed up the week.
6. Silent leader: Freshman Marci Turner opened with a 1-under 71 at Sunriver and found herself as the early leader. The media gathered around her after her last hole to get a few quotes. It was then that Tennessee's sports information director made the most bizarre media demand in championship history: Ask questions, but don’t let Turner know she’s leading.
OK, my colleague said. We’ll ask what she had for lunch.
5. I never did like riding a bus: The weather in New Mexico was so bizarre, I found myself on a school bus waiting out a hailstorm. Texas A&M’s Ashley Freeman managed to take a nap on our bus, even though it was standing-room only in there. I later found out that my colleague, Asher Wildman, led another busload of folks in “The Wheels on the Bus" (go round and round). I can’t sing.
4. The all-time SID note: This one also came out of New Mexico: A college SID said he saw jackrabbits duking it out on the seventh tee the morning of the third round. That was before everyone had an iPhone, so sadly, no video footage.
3. Best of the bunch: Not one player stands out more over the last 10 years than Amanda Blumenherst. “Blu” graduated magna cum laude at Duke and was a three-time College Player of the Year, leading Duke to two national championships. At a time when the elite rarely leave with a diploma, Blumenherst stands out for a four-year career that might be the best ever. On top of all that, she was an absolute delight.
2. Boiler up! Purdue’s victory at the 2010 NCAA Championship was a breakthrough moment in the women’s game. It marked the first time a Northern school had won the NCAA title. Longtime coach Devon Brouse's team squeaked out a one-stroke victory over powerhouse USC. Parity had arrived, making the college game (and my job) much more interesting.
1. Site for sore eyes: The best NCAA Championship of the past decade took place two years ago in Wilmington, N.C., at the Country Club of Landfall. The community support in Wilmington was tremendous. The NCAA Championship should feel like a grand stage; there should be a buzz. The residents of Landfall were filling bleachers, their backyards and a local trolley that dropped off fans just outside the clubhouse. The Pete Dye Course provided plenty of drama, and the sweet tea and lunch spread provided for the media didn’t hurt either.
Let’s hurry back.