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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hoffman leads the way as Texas repeats as Big 12 champion

   Texas, No. 7 in the latest Golfstat rankings, made its postseason intentions clear with a hard-fought victory in the Big 12 Championship, which concluded Sunday at the Dallas Athletic Club’s Blue Course.
   Only 12 shots separated the top five finishers in a conference with rivalries – in all sports – as intense as any in college athletics. It was the second straight Big 12 title for the Longhorns and their fifth overall.
   Texas trailed No. 36 Baylor by four after posting a 4-over 292 over the 6,215-yard, par-72 Blue Course layout in Friday’s opening round. The Longhorns carded a 4-over 292 in the second round to build a four-shot lead over No. 17 Oklahoma State and finished up with a 5-over 293 for a 16-over 880 total that was eight shots clear of Oklahoma State and Baylor, which shared second at 24-over 888.
   No. 28 Iowa State, led by individual champion Celia Barquin Arozamena, a senior from Spain, was another shot behind Oklahoma State and Baylor in fourth at 889. It was three more shots back to No. 18 Oklahoma, which finished fifth at 892.
   Texas was led by Emilee Hoffman, a sophomore from Folsom, Calif. who was the runnerup in the Big 12 Championship for the second straight year. With a shaky weather forecast for Saturday, there was a double-round Friday and Hoffman bettered par in each of them with a 1-under in the morning and a 2-under 70 in the afternoon that gave her a three-shot lead over Arozamena.
   Hoffman slipped back a little with a 3-over 75 in Sunday’s final round, but still claimed the runnerup spot at even-par 216.
   Kaitlyn Papp, the Austin home girl who is at or near the head of a remarkable freshman class all around the country, was her usual steady self, finishing tied for fourth at 3-over 219. Papp had a pair of 74s in Friday’s double-round before finishing up with a 1-under 71.
   Among the three players tied for eighth was Texas’ Sophia Schubert, a senior from Oak Ridge, Tenn. and the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. Schubert trailed Hoffman by four after a 2-under 70 in Friday afternoon’s second round before falling back with a final-round 77 that left her at 6-over 222.
   The No. 19 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Schubert was chosen last week to represent the United States in the Curtis Cup Match against Great Britain & Ireland in June at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. She is the perfect senior leader for a team brimming with talented youngsters.
   Greta Isabella Voelker, a sophomore from Germany, finished tied for 22nd at 228 after a final-round 74.
   Rounding out the Texas lineup was Agathe Laisne, a freshman from France who finished tied for 26th at 229. Laisne is as talented a No. 5 as any team has in the country. She won the European Ladies Championship last summer and has qualified for match play in each of the last two U.S. Women’s Amateurs. She has been inconsistent, but her final-round 73 was Texas’ second-best score of the day and the kind of round she is capable of on any given day.
   Arozamena, playing in her final Big 12 Championship, matched the low individual round of the tournament in the final round with a 3-under 69 that enabled her to surge past Hoffman and capture the title with a 3-under 213 total. She was the only player in the talented field to finish under par for the weekend.
   Oklahoma State’s Chih-Min Chen finished third at 2-over 218, two shots behind Hofffman. Chen opened with a 2-under 70, added a 75 Friday afternoon and finished up with a 1-over 73.
Joining Papp in the tie for fourth at 3-over 219 was Oklahoma veteran Hannah Wood, a  senior from Centennial, Colo. Wood finished strong with a 1-under 71.
   A couple of Baylor freshmen grabbed the next two spots as Diana Ballieux of Belgium finished sixth and Gurleen Kaur of Houston took seventh. Ballieux followed up an opening-round 70 with a pair of 75s to finish sixth at 220 and Kaur finished up with a 1-over 73 to end up at 221.
   Another Baylor player, Maria Vesga, a junior from Colombia, joined Schubert and Oklahoma’s Valerie Tanguay, a senior from Canada, in the tie for eighth at 222. Vesga matched the low round of the championship when she opened with a 69. She finished up with a 77 Friday afternoon and a 76 Sunday.
   Tanguay matched par in the final round with a 72 to join the trio at 6-over 222.
   Texas will get to stay at home as the host team for the Austin Regional. But if Oklahoma State can get through whatever regional it ends up in, the Cowgirls will be right at home for the NCAA Championship at their home course, Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
   Oklahoma State lost senior Maddie McCrary to the professional ranks during the midseason break. As I’ve mentioned before, you’re looking for players whose goal it is to play at the highest level of the game and the Cowgirls aren’t the only team to lose a player of McCrary’s caliber since the fall portion of the campaign.
   Some of the Big 12 teams might not sport the high rankings that some of their Pac-12 and Southeast Conference sisters do, but they can play and they’re going to have the kind of support that helped carry Northwestern all the way to the Final Match last spring at Rich Harvest Farms.

Georgetown repeats as Big East champion; Seton Hall fnishes second

   Georgetown claimed the team crown in the Big East Championship, presented by Jeep, for the second straight year Sunday at Callawassie Island Golf Club in Okatie, S.C., but Seton Hall, with several former Pennsylvania scholastic standouts on the roster, is gaining on the Hoyas.
   Georgetown, led by individual champion Jacquelyn Eleey, a senior from Quincy, Mass., got the jump on field with an 11-over-par 299 over the 6,010-yard, par-72 Dogwood and Magnolia nines at Callawassie Island in Friday’s opening round and closed with a 10-over 298 for a 39-over 903 total. The Hoyas’ first and third rounds were the only sub-300 rounds of the weekend.
   Seton Hall, which finished fifth a year ago, was the runnerup at 923, 20 shots behind Georgetown. The Pirates got off to a tough start with an opening-round 314, but played better as the weekend wore on with a second round of 302 and a final-round 307 Sunday.
   Xavier was another 15 shots behind the Hall in third at 938 after a final-round 316. Butler finished fourth at 946 after a final round of 307, St. John’s was fifth at 952 after a final-round 318 and Creighton was sixth at 993 after a final-round 328.
   Eleey trailed teammate Christina Parsells, a junior from Bernardsville, N.J., by a shot heading into the final round, but carded a solid 1-over 73 to finish with a 6-over 222 total while Parsells posted an 81 to fall back into a tie for second.
   Eleey opened with a 1-under 71 before falling behind Parsells with a 78 in Saturday’s second round. But Eleey came on strong in the final round to make it bookend individual titles for her at Georgetown. Eleey captured the title as a freshman in 2015. Her victory Sunday made her the first two-time individual winner in conference history.
   Parsells finished seven shots behind Eleey in a tie for second with Butler’s Abigail Gleixner, a sophomore from Greenwood, Ind., at 13-over 229.
   Georgetown had two other players finish in the top 10 as both Ashley Fitzgibbons, a sophomore from Sammamish, Wash., and Pendleton Bogache, a junior from Myrtle Beach, S.C., ended up in the group tied for ninth at 232. Fitzgibbons finished up with a solid 2-over 74 while Bogache carded her second straight 78 after opening up with a 76.
   Alexa Popowitz, a junior from Boca Raton, Fla., rounded out the Georgetown lineup as she finished just outside the top 10 in 11th place at 233. Popowitz’s final round of 1-over 73 shared medalist honors for the Hoyas for the day with Eleey.
   Butler’s Gleixner caught Georgetown’s Parsells for a share of second with a final round of 3-over 75. Gleixner had posted a pair of 76s in the first two rounds.
   A trio of Seton Hall players comprised the three-way tie for fourth as Cassie Pantelas, a senior from Canton, Ohio., Lizzie Win, a sophomore from Sylvania, Ohio, and freshman Mia Kness, the 2016 PIAA Class AAA champion as a senior at Peters Township, all landed on 14-over 230.
   Pantelas, wrapping up her Seton Hall career, was in the hunt for the individual title after following up an opening-round 76 with a 75. But she slipped back with a final-round 79.
   Win and Kness, key parts of Seton Hall’s young nucleus, each opened with an 80. Win fired a solid 1-over 73 in the second round before finishing up with a 77. Kness also recovered from her slow start with a 2-over 74 in the second round before finishing up with a 76.
   Xavier’s Mikayla Smith, a junior from Appleton, Wis., and St. John’s Linda Wang, a sophomore from Fresh Meadows, N.Y., finished in a tie for seventh at 231, a shot behind the Seton Hall trio. Smith put together three straight 77s while Wang finished up with a solid 2-over 74.
   A couple of former Chester County scholastic standouts rounded out the lineup for Seton Hall.
Sophomore Maddie Sager, the 2015 PIAA Class AAA runnerup as a senior at Owen J. Roberts, finished alone in 14th place at 238. After struggling with rounds of 83 and 80 Friday and Saturday, Sager finished strong with a 3-over 75 that was the best score of the day for the Pirates.
   Sophomore Sammie Staudt, a Coatesville product, was a shot behind Sager in the group tied for 15th at 239. Staudt opened with a 78 and added an 82 before finishing up with a 79.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Maguire takes individual title and leads Duke to runaway victory in ACC Championship

   When Leona Maguire made it clear that she was playing out her career at Duke through the spring of her senior season, she also made it clear that she wanted to go out with an NCAA Championship.
   The native of Cavan, Ireland has twice won the Annika Award as Division I’s top player. She has played on a winning Curtis Cup side for Great Britain & Ireland on her home sod in suburban Dublin two years ago.
   But you can’t win an NCAA title without some help. Maguire and Duke got a huge boost with the arrival of Jaravee Boonchant, a freshman from Thailand who has been solid since the moment she arrived in Durham.
   There were proven commodities in Ana Belac, a sophomore from Slovenia, and Virginia Elena Carta, the junior from Italy who, in the space of few months in 2016, won the NCAA individual title going away and reached the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club. But neither Belac nor Carta have been themselves for much of the year.
   And there was Maguire’s twin sister Lisa, whose game has been all over the place at Duke while her sister was at or near the top of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) for most of the last few years.
   Well, look out because all those loose ends seemed to have tied themselves together in the ACC Championship, which concluded with a rampaging victory for the Blue Devils, ranked fifth in the latest Golfstat rankings, Monday at the Grandover Resort’s East Course in Greensboro, N.C.
   Leona Maguire claimed her third ACC individual title in a tense three-hole playoff with her teammate Boonchant after they had finished four shots clear of the rest of the field.
   The ACC Championship was moved to Grandover late in the season and it was layout largely unfamiliar to most of the players. A little wind and rain kicked up for Monday’s final round, the kind of conditions that the Maguire sisters are much more comfortable in than most.
   None of it bothered the Dookies as they opened with a 6-under 282 over the 6,122-yard, par-72 East Course layout Saturday, added a 7-under 281 in Sunday’s second round and finished up with a 2-under 286 Monday for a 15-under 849.
   Each round was the best of the day and Duke finished 27 shots ahead of runnerup Florida State, ranked 30th. It was kind of like the Blue Devils were playing a different golf course than everybody else was.
   The ACC is filled with talented players and many teams that, while maybe not ranked in the top 20, are ranked between 20 and 40 are capable of putting together some very good tournament results.
   The Seminoles had a final round of 8-over 296 to finish second at 12-over 876. No. 31 Clemson was another shot behind Florida State in third after a final-round 294. It was eight more shots back to No. 33 Virginia in fourth at 885 after a solid 2-over 290 in the final round. No. 19 Wake Forest struggled in the final round with a 300 to take fifth at 890.
   No. 27 Miami finished sixth at 893 after a final round of 294 and No. 20 Louisville was seventh at 894 after a final round of 4-over 292.
   It was a disappointing day for Bryn Walker, the two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor, and No. 21 North Carolina as the Tar Heels shared eighth place with No. 32 North Carolina State at 895. North Carolina flashed its talent with an even-par 288 in the second round, but struggled to a 301 in the rain and wind Monday. The Wolfpack moved up a little with a final round of 5-over 293.
   Rounding out the top 10 was No. 46 Notre Dame, which finished up with an encouraging 6-over 294 to end up at 34-over 898.
   Maguire, No. 2 in the latest Women’s WAGR, put the field on notice by opening with a 5-under 67 in Saturday’s opening round. She added a 2-under 70 Sunday before finishing up with a 1-over 73 for a 6-under 210 total.
   Boonchant moved into contention with a 67 of her own in Sunday’s second round that left her a shot behind her teammate heading into the final round. Boonchant was able to catch Maguire with an even-par 72 that also left her at 6-under.
   The pair each parred the first two holes of the playoff before Boonchant blinked with a bogey and Maguire claimed her third ACC title.
   But even more heartening for Duke coach Dan Brooks was the play of Belac and Carta. Belac sandwiched a 74 with a pair of 2-under 70s to finish tied for third at 2-under 214. Carta, who has struggled with injuries for much of the season, but is still No. 23 in the Women’s WAGR, bettered par with her second-round 70 and her final-round 71 to finish in the foursome tied for fifth at even-par 216.
   And Lisa Maguire was solid. Her opening round of 74 was the final counter for the Blue Devils and she added rounds of 76 and 79 to finish in the group tied for 40th at 229.
   It was Duke’s second straight ACC crown and its 21st overall, 20 of which have come under Brooks. They are going to be a handful in the postseason especially with the determined Leona Maguire leading the way.
   Florida State’s Morgane Metraux, a senior from Switzerland, shared third with Belac at 2-under 214. Metraux moved into contention with a 3-under 69 in the second round before finishing up with an even-par 72. She was the only player not wearing blue to finish under par over a course that challenged some  of the best players in college golf.
   One of those players is Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho, one spot behind Maguire in the Women’s WAGR at No. 3. She shared second placed with Maguire in some horrendous weather in the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms a year ago. Kupcho was named last week to the U.S. team that will  challenge Maguire and GB&I in the Curtis Cup Match at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. in June.
   Kupcho of Westminster, Colo. finished up with a 2-over 74 Monday to join Carta and two others in the group tied for fifth at even-par 216.
   Rounding out the foursome at 216 were Florida State’s Amanda Doherty, a sophomore from Atlanta, who struggled to a final-round 77 after a sparkling 5-under 67 in Sunday’s second round, and Virginia’s Beth Lillie, a freshman from Fullerton, Calif. who fired a final round of 3-under 69.
   Clemson’s Alice Hewson, a junior from the United Kingdom, had the best round of the day Monday, a 4-under 68 to finish alone in ninth at 1-over 217.
   North Carolina had been playing some of its best golf of the season coming into the weekend, but couldn’t sustain it. The Tar Heels got off on the wrong foot in Saturday’s opening round as the best scores they could muster were a couple of 76s by Walker, a sophomore, and Kelly Whaley, junior from Farmington, Conn. who had really found her game this spring.
   But then Mariana Ocano, a sophomore from St. Petersburg, Fla. who has developed into a really nice player this season, fired a 5-under 67 in Sunday’s second round. Walker matched par with a 72. Whaley had a 1-over 73. And Bryana Nguyen, a senior from Columbia, Md., and Ava Bergner, a freshman from Germany who was North Carolina’s best player last fall, each posted a 76.
   It was an even-par 288 and the Tar Heels appeared headed for a top-five finish. But Bergner’s 74 was the best North Carolina could offer in a final-round 301.
   Ocano was actually the Tar Heels’ top finisher, a final-round 79 leaving her at 7-over 223. Whaley finished up with a 75 to end up in the group tied for 25th at 224. Walker, with a final-round 77, finished in the group tied for 30th at 225.
   Nguyen’s final-round 75 left her among the group tied for 37th at 228 and Bergner’s final-round 74 left her in the group tied for 44th at 230.
   North Carolina will hear its name called when the NCAA regional tickets are handed out Wednesday. They showed an incredible amount of grit in making it out of the Athens Regional a year ago and again in finishing one shot out of the top eight that qualified for match play at Rich Harvest Farms. This would seem to be a better team this year, at times it has been much better than that team. It will be interesting to see how the Tar Heels respond.
   I have no idea if Notre Dame will earn a regional berth. But if Monday’s round was their last of the season, the Irish did themselves proud.
   It has not been a great year for junior Isabella DiLisio, whose 2013 PIAA Class AAA championship as a junior at Mount St. Joseph preceded Walker’s two for Radnor. She opened the ACC Championship with a pair of 82s. But she showed the kind of player she is with the low round of the day Monday for the Irish, an even-par 72 that helped them put together a solid 6-over 294.
   DiLisio’s 236 total left her alone in 56th, the worst finish for a Notre Dame player.
   Always steady Emma Albrecht, a junior from Ormond Beach, Fla., finished up with a 74 to end up in the group tied for 18th at 5-over 221. Maddie Rose Hamilton, a junior from Louisville, Ky., snuck into the top 20 as her final-round 75 left her in the group tied for 20th at 222.
   Mia Ayer, a sophomore from Waco, Texas, carded a solid 1-over 73 in Monday’s final round to finish among the group tied for 34th at 227. Abby Heck, a freshman from Memphis, Tenn., finished in the group tied for 49th at 233 after a final-round 77.