NCAA women's golf championship: Texas, Arkansas lead; USC lurking

Walt Beazley/Razorbacks Athletics Communications

NCAA women's golf championship: Texas, Arkansas lead; USC lurking

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NCAA women's golf championship: Texas, Arkansas lead; USC lurking

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Top-ranked USC won the Pac-12 Championship by 11 strokes and the NCAA Cle Elum Regional by 15. Head coach Justin Silverstein doesn’t put much stock in the idea of momentum.

His message to the team heading into this week’s NCAA Championship: “We’ve done great things, but we haven’t been perfect.”

The last thing Silverstein wanted was for his players to buy into the notion that these landslide victories meant they’d been playing perfect golf. Mistakes were made, and they’ll continue to be made this week at the Blessings. Expect it. Move on it from it.

SCORES: NCAA Div. I women’s golf
PHOTOS: Images from the championship

That pre-tournament speech never rang truer than when No. 1 player Jennifer Chang posted a nine on her third hole of the championship. She played the rest of the round in even par on a day when only four players finished in red numbers.

“That was a monster effort for us,” said Silverstein.

The Trojans have won seven times this season and finished the day at 14-over 306, four shots behind host Arkansas and Texas. The Razorbacks, led by the fiery Maria Fassi, posted six birdies on the final four holes. Fassi played her last 11 holes in 4 under to shoot 72.

USC’s Amelia Garvey.

The Blessings thus far has proven to be a beast of a course with its small landing areas off the tee, big undulating greens and a taxing wind. With players coming into greens that are firm on the first bounce with longer irons, it’s tough to shoot a low number. On the par-73 layout, 66 players failed to break 80 and three couldn’t break 90.

Arizona seniors Bianca Pagdanganan (69) and Haley Moore (72) joined Texas’ Emilee Hoffman and Fassi as the only players to break par.

Pagdanganan finished runner-up at last year’s NCAA championship, where the Wildcats won the team title.

Texas and Arkansas lead the team race. Both shot 10-over on Friday. Arizona and Stanford at T-3 at 12-over. Duke is fifth at +13 and USC is next at +14.

Silverstein’s message on Friday night will be one of patience.

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about USC this season is how deep the lineup is 1-6. USC trounced the field in its last two events and Silverstein still held a 36-hole, match-play qualifier for NCAAs between Allisen Corpuz and Amelia Garvey.

Corpuz was in the lineup for both conference and regionals, but a share of 55th at the latter made her vulnerable.

Garvey won the qualifier with a birdie on the second playoff hole at Trump National Los Angeles, hitting driver, pitching wedging on a 490-yard hole.

“I think you have to expect that kind of competition on the No. 1 team in the country,” said Garvey of fighting her way back in.

Leaving Corpuz out of the lineup wasn’t easy.

“Her resume is like a CVS receipt,” joked Silverstein of the player who made national headlines at age 10 when she became the youngest to compete in a USGA championship.

How did Garvey respond at the Blessings? She only notched two eagles in an opening 1-over 74, the low round of the day for USC.

“She has improved more than anyone this year,” Silverstein said.

The field will be cut to 15 teams after the third round, and the top eight advance to match play after 72 holes.

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