AUSTIN, Texas – Arkansas coach Shauna Estes-Taylor huddled with her team after play on Tuesday at the NCAA Regionals and laid out the plan: Wipe down everything.
A mysterious virus swept through the field at the University of Texas Golf Club, taking down almost the entire East Carolina team. Only two players competed for the Pirates in the second round, and that itself was a miracle. Three East Carolina players went to the hospital on Monday night. Head coach Kevin Williams fell sick in Round 1, leaving the golf course for the first time in his 21-year career. His players went down like dominoes after that.
“It was a hard talk this morning,” said Williams. “I didn’t know what to say.”
Michigan State assistant coach Caroline Powers started feeling poorly in the hotel lobby at 9 p.m. She later fainted in her room, but was lucky to have her mom around.
“First ride in an ambulance,” said Powers, who was back out at the course on Tuesday. “I felt like I was in a movie.”
Colorado State coach Annie Young, who has two individuals competing in the field, will remain in the hospital until at least Wednesday morning. Her husband, Caleb, flew to Austin Tuesday afternoon.
Coolers may have been source
There are plenty of theories as to what caused the outbreak but nothing conclusive. One concern in particular centered around drinking coolers after players in the field had reportedly dipped their towels inside to cool off.
Tournament staff placed hand sanitizer throughout the course and clubhouse. Water coolers were replaced with individual bottles of water. Signs were put up around the clubhouse encouraging folks to wash their hands.
Arkansas’ Cara Gorlei fell sick Monday night. Estes-Taylor didn’t know if Gorlei would be able to make today’s lineup, but the junior from South Africa fought through it, with a coach and trainer by her side the entire round.
The Razorbacks put the pedal down in Round 2, scorching UT’s course in 17-under 271 to lead Texas by 11 strokes. Estes-Taylor said the team rallied around Gorlei, not knowing if, or how long, she could compete.
“Everybody just knew that we had to pick each other up and go out and fight,” said Estes-Taylor. “We came here on a mission.”
When ECU’s Carley Cox finished play, the medical staff was waiting with an IV. Williams, who walked with Cox, said he was blown away by her fortitude. He was also amazed by the number of people who reached out after seeing so many of his players withdraw on live scoring. Because teams need to post four scores for each round, ECU is ineligible to advance to the NCAA Championship. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
“It’s a long way from home to be sick,” said a disappointed Williams. “Not a good time to be at the Holiday Inn.”