Notes: Conservative play nets UNC 16-shot lead
SORRENTO, Fla. – Casey Grice wouldn’t exactly call herself a naturally conservative player. The second round of the UCF Challenge required some serious restraint by Grice, but it paid off in the end. The North Carolina junior shot Monday’s low round, a 4-under 68, at RedTail Golf Club as winds swirled on an otherwise perfect day.
“I am a very aggressive player,” Grice said. “If you ask anybody on the team, they would say that. But with this course, you have to take it in strides. ... There are a lot of holes out here where you’re better off just going for the middle of the green or hitting less club off the tee. I felt like we managed the course as a team today a lot better.”
Grice only went for the pin when she had short irons in her hand. She fought the temptation to pull driver on every tee, and to top it off, she had just 29 putts.
The field average was nearly two shots higher in Round 2 than it was in Round 1. It’s one reason North Carolina’s 10-under 278 total is so impressive. It was the lowest team score by 14 shots. Virginia shot 7-over 292 for the day. As a result, North Carolina takes a 16-shot lead in the final round.
The Tar Heels returned this spring physically stronger thanks to a workout regimen that had the team in the gym five days each week. North Carolina ended the fall with consecutive victories at the NCAA Fall Preview and the Tar Heel Invitational. Far from their lead being the elephant in the team room, Grice says the team is taking it in stride. There is work to do on Tuesday.
“We obviously know we won two and we know we’re leading this one, so it’s there,” she said. “We just try to take it day by day, shot by shot. We don’t really talk about scores too much after the round.”
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RUST BUSTER: The recurring gesture among coaches during Monday’s sunny second round was one of arms spread, enjoying the warm Florida weather. One of the draws of this tournament is that it offers more northern schools the opportunity to shake off the rust after a winter indoors.
Central Florida’s players, however, don’t really need to worry about winter hibernation – especially sophomore Monifa Sealy.
Despite being early February, Sealy is teeing it up in her fourth tournament of 2013. Sealy represented her native Trinidad in the Copa de las Americas at Doral early in January, then got a second start at the South Atlantic Amateur.
The extra tournament experience paid off for Sealy, who tied Florida’s Mia Piccio for medalist honors on Jan. 28 at the inaugural Florida Challenge –a showdown among five of the top universities in Florida. Central Florida finished fourth as a team.
Sealy, who shot even-par 72 on Monday and is T-7, explains that she hasn’t been playing all winter. She did return home to Trinidad for the holidays and said before the Copa, she hadn’t touched a club in two months.
“I was actually really scared for the first tournament,” she said.
The secret to Sealy’s success is not so much mechanics, but learning to quiet her mind. That was the key at the Florida Challenge.
“I have a very active brain,” Sealy said. “I was trying to stay relaxed and I was trying to work on being more focused when I got over my ball, and I did for the 36 holes. It was really good.”
Now into her second year at Central Florida, Sealy is quickly becoming accustomed to the Sunshine State. Before college, she also spent two years at the Gary Gilchrist Academy in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. The perks of living here are many, especially now.
Aside from the ideal southern weather, consider that Central Florida’s practice rota includes RedTail, Rio Pinar, Northshore, Lake Nona and Isleworth. It truly is good to be a Knight.
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NO GROUND LOST: Augusta State’s Natalie Wille so far owns the lowest score this week. Her 5-under 67 from Round 1 is yet unmatched. The senior from Sweden returned an even-par 72 on Monday to maintain a share of the lead with Virginia’s Briana Mao.
Wille said tougher pins and more wind made the course play tougher in Round 2. She said she felt a little uncertain about how her game would come back after the winter until yesterday’s round.
“Right now, just putting has been really good. Wedges have been a lot better, driver has been more accurate,” she said.
Aside from her own game, Wille also kept an eye on teammate Casey Kennedy in the group behind her. The two would do a dance when they made birdies. She said she did it three or four times on Monday.
“I did it when she did it,” Wille explained.
Thanks in part to Wille’s even-par round and Kennedy’s round of 5-over 77, the Jaguars are tied for fourth with Eastern Carolina.
As Augusta State waited for their scores to come in Monday just off the 18th green, a sixth player blended in with the rest of the roster. LPGA player Kristy McPherson walked the course and helped oversee the team with head coach Kory Thompson.
“It’s inspiring to have someone close that you can just talk to who is up there on the tour,” Wille said of McPherson’s presence.
Wille said McPherson makes a good soundboard, but also knows her way around the course when it comes to coaching. She assisted former women’s head coach Kevin McPherson (her brother) during the 2010 NCAA East Regional. Kevin now coaches Augusta State’s men.