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ATHENS, Ga. – When a team builds a 17-shot lead through 54 holes of the NCAA Championship, the record books start opening. USC is nearly out of the sight of the rest of the field, but there still are 18 holes to play. The message on Thursday? Stranger things have happened.
In 17 years leading at USC, head coach Andrea Gaston has never coached a team to such a distant third-round lead. Gaston left the course “in awe,” of her team’s consistency.
“You can sleep a little better at night,” Gaston said Thursday. .
Duke head coach Dan Brooks can remember coaching his team out of a 23-shot deficit years ago during the final round of the Mercedes-Benz, a regular-season tournament hosted by Tennessee. The Blue Devils beat Tulsa by 12. In 1986, Wake Forest staged a 19-shot swing on the back nine of the NCAA Men’s Championship to finish two shots ahead of third-round leader Oklahoma State.
“It would be really amazing for something like that to happen when USC is on the golf course with us,” Brooks said. He taught his team an important word in Round 3: unflappable.
After Duke, the next closest ...
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ATHENS, Ga. –– Courtney Ellenbogen’s degree in economics made the decision rather easy: She’d have to be a solid top-50 player on the LPGA money list to make more money than what she’ll take home as an investment banker in Manhattan.
Get this Dukie a subway card. Better yet, get her a rail pass for her upcoming trip to Europe or a ticket for the Tube for when she’s in London July 28 working a four-week training session for Deutsche Bank.
“Both those worlds are pretty competitive and intense,” Ellenbogen said.
One just happens to guarantee a paycheck.
There are two seniors in Duke coach Dan Brook’s lineup, and they are on two vastly different paths. Ellenbogen raced back from regionals in Norman, Okla., to walk at her graduation. Lindy Duncan, a three-time first-team All-American, skipped graduation and flew straight home to prepare for nationals. Duncan will turn professional immediately after the NCAA Championship.
Friday’s final round will be a bittersweet day for most seniors in the field. But at a time when it’s trendy to turn pro early and toil in the play-for-pay ranks with few playing opportunities and ...
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ATHENS, Ga. –– Making the turn from Riverbend Road into the parking lot at the University of Georgia Golf Course for Thursday’s third round, my colleagues and I were quick to notice something different. It was a vibe, a feel that something of significance was going on.
Of course we knew it was the NCAA Championship, but it was clearly visibly to anyone driving by that some sort of big event was taking place. Then the parking lot attendant approached us and said something we had never heard before at an NCAA Women’s Championship: “The parking lot is full and you will have to park on the grass.”
There you have it. Something concrete that will help vault this year’s event toward the top of the Lance Ringler Championship Feel Test rankings.
That is the sort of thing you hear at a big event and this is a big event – the biggest on the women’s schedule.
This year marks my 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA women’s finals. There are no exact criteria or guidelines that are followed in deciding the ranking order of the championships. It’s simply the atmosphere from ...
ATHENS, Ga. –- Opponents will know Ally McDonald by the curly bun sticking out the back of her Mississippi State ball cap and the sweet southern accent with which she speaks. These things do not point to a killer instinct, but deep down, it’s there.
Teammate Mary Langdon Gallagher, an equally sweet-sounding southerner, can speak to McDonald’s competitive fire. The two Mississippi natives have known each other since they were 12 years old, and were two of the most competitive girl golfers statewide of their time. Gallagher, a junior on the Bulldog roster, calls McDonald, a sophomore, one of her dearest friends.
Gallagher says it’s never “dog eat dog” with McDonald, but if there’s a contest (hot-dog eating, fastest walker, best tan), McDonald wants to win. McDonald, Gallagher explains, has chipped in on her more times than she can count. She vividly remembers playing against McDonald in the semifinals of the 2011 Mississippi Women’s Amateur.
“She beat me like a runaway train,” Gallagher drawls, smiling ear to ear. “We didn’t speak the whole time.”
Gallagher was the defending champion that week, but Gallagher was the eventual winner, and won again last summer. She defeated Mississippi ...
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ATHENS, Ga. –- Stanford gets to spend a week in the life of freshman Mariah Stackhouse while at the NCAA Championship. The Stackhouse home is about 90 miles from the University of Georgia Golf Course, which was close enough for the Cardinal to pile in the team van early week and take in a home-cooked meal.
“Everybody was really excited to see where I had grown up,” Stackhouse said. She was just glad her bedroom was clean for the team visit.
Stackhouse shot a second-round, 4-under 68 on Wednesday that left her four shots behind Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow for the individual lead. Her only bogey was at No. 3.
Despite growing up so close to the championship venue, Stackhouse didn’t have green charts or tons of local knowledge to produce for head coach Anne Walker and the team this week. Rather than logging a lot of rounds here, Stackhouse mostly was a fixture at the Liz Murphey, Georgia’s annual spring tournament.
“None of the holes were new to me,” she said.
So Stackhouse warned her West Coast teammates that the air would be heavy this week, that if the rough wasn’t thick when ...
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ATHENS, Ga. –- Devon Brouse doesn’t have to say a word. The Purdue coach simply takes his rather powerful-looking stance, crosses his arms in front of his chest and gives a look. That look. The one that says he’s related to Gen. George S. Patton and expects his team to win the battle and the war.
“He gives our players a confidence and intensity with his presence that’s probably more valuable than words,” said Caroline Haase, a former Purdue player and current assistant coach.
Brouse’s looks are especially handy when he decides not to designate himself as one of two coaches during competition. The plan coming into the NCAA Championship was to let his two assistant coaches – Haase and Greg Robertson – coach all four rounds while Brouse watched from the sidelines. His wife, Kathy, was along for the ride, keeping him calm.
It’s an unusual strategy in the coaching world – not coaching, that is – but Brouse thinks senior Paula Reto plays best with someone walking 18 holes alongside her, and Robertson has proved to be an excellent caddie-coach. Haase rotates between the other players. On Wednesday, Brouse said Haase noticed senior Laura ...
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ATHENS, Ga. –- We are at the halfway point of this year’s NCAA Women’s Championship and, frankly, it has the potential to turn into a yawner. Does it matter to those making the decisions about the future of this championship whether the final two rounds result in a USC romp or a nail-biting finish similar to last year's?
Here is what I know and don’t know through 36 holes:
• I know that the women’s game has made no changes to its championship in recent years, while the men have completely redesigned their finals, going to a match-play format that has de-emphasized the individual portion of the championship and opened the victory door for more than just a small handful of teams.
• I don’t know for certain that the women’s game will change its format, although many sources suggest that might be on the horizon, largely because of the fact that the event will be televised in two years. And having the women and men at the same venue – The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. – using the same match-play format in 2015 would seem only logical and look better to ...
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ATHENS, Ga. –- Oklahoma assistant Gerrod Chadwell said there’s an American Indian myth that tornadoes aren’t supposed to touch down between two rivers. People say that’s what has kept Norman, Okla., from suffering the fate of nearby Moore. But, as Chadwell said, “Mother Nature is Mother Nature.”
Moore and neighboring Norman, home to the University of Oklahoma, are a mere 10 miles apart. It’s tough to find someone in Norman who doesn’t know someone affected by the devastation in Moore.
Chadwell followed the tornado’s movement on his cellphone while on the range in Athens, Ga. The deadly tornado – it killed at least 24, injured hundreds and leveled 13,000 structures – tore down a path two miles from Chadwell’s Norman home.
When he later talked to his sister, Jeniece, the devastation hit even closer emotionally. Two years ago, Jeniece taught third grade at Plaza Towers, an elementary school demolished by the storm’s path.
“It’s hard to have any emotion,” Chadwell said on Tuesday, “hard to get fired up.”
No one in the Sooners’ starting lineup is an Oklahoma native, but Chirapat Jao-Javanil and her teammates consider Oklahoma an adopted ...
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ATHENS, Ga. -– Annie Park arrived for Round 1 of the NCAA Championship with Trojan red chalked into the bottom of her ombre braid, her nails neon orange. Team golf suits the 18-year-old.
Park, noticeable as she may be for these things, sticks out even more during play. She hits it zip codes ahead of her opponents. Most coaches and players name the University of Georgia Golf Course’s length as one of the greatest obstacles this week, but Park can hit every par 5 in two.
Behind Park’s second-round, 5-under 67 on Wednesday, the Trojans climbed to the top of the leaderboard. By the time first-round co-leader San Jose State had teed off, USC had built an eight-shot cushion with a 12-under 276. That’s a new 18-hole national-championship record.
Starting on the back nine, USC was 7 under on its round by the time Park, in the anchor position, made the turn. Credit two of those birdies to Park.
The first-semester freshman from Levittown, N.Y., couldn’t have arrived any earlier for head coach Andrea Gaston. USC was a slim team of five in the fall, and played only three tournaments before the ...
ATHENS, Ga. –- Gerrod Chadwell grew up in Oklahoma but, miraculously, has yet to see a tornado. The Oklahoma assistant coach was named head coach of the inaugural University of Houston women’s golf team the same day a tornado ripped through his home state, two miles from his current home.
The emotional toll hit even closer when Chadwell talked to his sister, who two years ago taught third grade at Plaza Towers, an elementary school demolished by the storm’s path.
The heart-breaking news lends a different perspective to the week.
“It’s hard to have any emotion,” said Chadwell, “hard to get fired up.”
The Oklahoma coaches told their players there was no need for bad attitudes or hanging heads at the NCAA Championship. There are kids from Moore, Okla., who will never get this chance. Head coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell and Chadwell were on the range in Athens tracking the tornado’s path on Monday. When they returned from dinner, players watched the news coverage and saw restaurants and movie theaters they frequent back home completely leveled. Norman, where Oklahoma University is located, is 10 miles from Moore.
“We have friends who have lost a lot of things and ...
ATHENS, Ga. Regan de Guzman doesn’t know her driver specs by heart. The club has only been in her bag for two weeks, but Tuesday it led de Guzman outside the fairway just once – on the 18th hole.
The new driver also led de Guzman to the top of the individual leaderboard in the first round of the NCAA Championship. De Guzman shot 5-under 67 at the University of Georgia Golf Course, which, as head coach John Dormann will tell you, is a lot easier to do from the middle of the fairway.
“Everything starts there for women’s golf,” Dormann said.
De Guzman’s old driver, one she’d had for five years, recently developed a mysterious dent in the head, which made De Guzman nervous. The young Filipino was so attached to the club that she would even jokingly talk to it, hoping to keep it working properly. “Are you thirsty? Do you want water?” She considered buying a new one, but instead asked Dormann to help her find a replacement. Enter the Titleist 910D3 (with 8.5 degrees of loft and an extra stiff shaft). It left another San Jose State bag – that of men’s ...
ATHENS, Ga. Sometimes the simple things can mean a lot. For Mississippi State, you might say something as simple as a final-round SEC Championship pairing with Alabama, the defending national champions, turned the season around. After 36 holes at SECs, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing the Crimson Tide by 12 shots, and that earned them the right to play with the Crimson Tide in the final round.
“You can’t buy that sort of pairing at such a critical time in the program,” Mississippi State head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said.
Despite stumbling late on the final day, Mississippi State recorded its best conference finish since 2000. The experience gained in that final round might have helped the team again in regional play. The Bulldogs were the No. 19 seed in the NCAA Central Regional but finished third to earn a spot in the 24-team NCAA Championship.
In the opening round, Mississippi State posted a 12-over 300 led by Ally McDonald’s 2-under 70. The Bulldogs sit alone in 19th place, while McDonald is tied for fourth place.
“Getting to play with the defending national champions at the SECs prepared us for that emotionally,” Brown-Lemm said. “We were able to see ...
ATHENS, Ga. – When Liz Nagel was in the midst of an iodine treatment for thyroid cancer earlier this year, her goldendoodle Dolly carried a lunch pale into her bedroom each afternoon. Michigan State’s Nagel was, at the time, radioactive and confined to her bedroom. She was also restricted to disposable dishware. No one could get within 5 feet.
There’s still a touch of iodine in Nagel’s system, but not enough to do anyone else harm. Few players in this week’s NCAA Championship field fought as hard as 21-year-old Nagel to get here. Even fewer would have her attitude.
“What better motivation to have than a team that needs you,” Michigan State coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. “A good team, too.”
Nagel doesn’t want to be seen as the cancer patient, but the truth is she won’t know for another eight months whether she’s cancer-free. She’s not willing to waste a day waiting around.
It was last November that Nagel came to a Friday workout in East Lansing with a nasty cough. Slobodnik-Stoll urged Nagel to walk 20 steps to the team doctor’s office. Nagel balked, saying he’d just offer her Mucinex ...
ATHENS, Ga. – Standing on the first hole with Alabama during Monday’s practice round for the NCAA Women’s Championship was a lesson in accuracy.
The Crimson Tide’s tee shots came loudly and in quick succession, and landed in a tight group across the middle of the fairway. Head coach Mic Potter had his players on a brisk pace around the University of Georgia Golf Course as the sun burned off a morning haze and dried out damp greens.
Alabama is aiming for national title No. 2 this week, season victory No. 8 and consecutive victory No. 6. Potter says the latter two stats are more relevant than the first. Last year is last year.
“That really has nothing to do with what we may or may not do this year, other than that if you store those positive experiences . . . it’s definitely something to build on,” Potter said. “I think the main thing in golf is you always attend to the shot at hand, do the best you can with it and do that all day long.”
Senior Jennifer Kirby, and juniors Stephanie Meadow and Hannah Collier return from Alabama’s 2012 national-championship team. This year the team ...
The 72-hole NCAA Women’s Championship begins May 21 at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga. Golfweek writers made their picks for the individual and team winners.
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Beth Ann Baldry
Team: We’re in the South, which means a hot team like Alabama feels right at home in nearby Athens, Ga. The Tide have won seven titles this season, including the NCAA East Regional and the SEC Championship. With junior Stephanie Meadow playing some of the best golf of her young career, Team 'Bama should be brimming with confidence.
If they couldn’t return to Nashville, site of their first NCAA crown, head coach Mic Potter said the University of Georgia’s course is the next best place. Expect familiarity to play a key role during the next four days.
Individual winner: Georgia’s Emilie Burger will be flying solo this week on her home course, making this a bittersweet experience for the senior from Hoschton, Ga. No one in the field, however, has as much local knowledge as Burger.
She’s ranked 16th by Golfweek and has two victories this season ...
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