Baylor women need gut-wrenching performance to beat virus, advance to NCAAs

Members of the Baylor University Golf team don't want to get too close to each other after quailifying for the NCAA Tournament May 9, 2018 at Austin Texas because several players got sick from an unknown virus. (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)` Baylor University

Baylor women need gut-wrenching performance to beat virus, advance to NCAAs

Women

Baylor women need gut-wrenching performance to beat virus, advance to NCAAs

AUSTIN, Texas – Diane Baillieux carried a bottle of blue Pedialyte out to the 18th green and laid down flat in the grass, her weary face pointed toward the sun. Baillieux had gone to the hospital at 3 a.m. Wednesday with teammate Maria Vesga. Both had fallen ill from the mysterious virus that swept through the NCAA Regional field in Austin.

The severe stomach bug had forced East Carolina to forfeit from the team competition in Round 2. The Bears were staring at a potentially similar fate when head coach Jay Goble pulled into the parking lot for the final round.

“Before we left the van I just said, ‘Diane and Maria, this is not your fault. We can’t control this,’ ” said Goble. “I looked at the other three players on our and team and said, ‘This means you have to shoot the lowest score you can shoot today and hope that one of them can get it in.’ ”

When Baillieux saw Vesga leave the golf course on the seventh hole, too queasy to carry on, she knew it was up to her. Quit now and Baylor’s send ends. Gut it out and send the Bears to Stillwater, Okla., for the NCAA Championship. Baillieux put forth a heroic effort, carding an even-par 72 with Goble by her side.

“I think without him I would be wasted,” she said.

Meanwhile three groups back, Baylor’s Fiona Liddell felt the virus begin to attack on the sixth hole. Assistant coach Ryan Ashburn, the first person in their program to fall ill, rushed out nausea medicine to Liddell on the eighth hole and again on the 14th. The Bears needed to post four scores to advance to nationals. They started the day in a tie for fourth and, incredibly, ended it in a share of third.

No hugs were given when it was over in an effort to make sure those still healthy stayed that way.

“I think for them, as hard as they work, if we wouldn’t have had chance to play in nationals because of this,” said Goble, “it would be like the biggest disappointment of all-time.”

Arkansas sprinted away from the field in the second round and easily won by 11 over host Texas. The only Razorback who finished outside the top 10 was the one who got sick. Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor, so worried about the virus spreading throughout her team, had players thoroughly wipe down their hotel rooms Tuesday night with disinfectant. 

“It was like a hospital in here,” said junior Maria Fassi. “You could smell alcohol through the hallway.”

Miami’s Kristyna Frydlova also caught the vicious bug and missed the last two rounds of the tournament. Hurricane teammate Roos Haarman had it too, and said she wouldn’t have competed had it been any other event.

Health department officials spoke with teams who were impacted by the outbreak, but no conclusions had been offered by tournament end.

“The first day everybody’s like ‘I had the cheeseburger and I had the turkey sandwich,’ ” said Goble. “It was like way too random, not like everybody that ate the turkey was sick.”

Many teams avoided eating lunch altogether at the club and stuck to bottled water. Hand sanitizers were placed near water coolers and signs were placed on the clubhouse door encouraging people to wash their hands. Oklahoma didn’t have anyone on the team fall ill, but coaches were in the parking lot after the round canceling their flights home, preferring instead to drive.

“This morning at breakfast coach goes, ‘Let’s just get it done and get out of Texas.’ ” said Auburn senior Kelli Murphy.

Colorado State coach Annie Young remained in the hospital during the final round, missing the last two days of competition. Young had two individuals competing in the field: Katrina Prendergast and Ellen Secor. Prendergast starting vomiting Tuesday night and was afraid to eat anything before the final round. She soldiered on, determined not to let it stop her. 

Amazingly, four East Carolina players fought back to put up scores in the final round. A couple of curious volunteers peppered Lisa Pettersson with questions when she came out of the scoring tent. Pettersson said her parents drank from the same water coolers that she did and didn’t get sick. And while she and her teammates had the same chicken salad, others that were sick had hamburger. 

All Pettersson knew for sure was that she had signed her last scorecard as a Pirate. She never dreamed it would end this way.

“I was really feeling that we had a shot this year,” she said.

 

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