CORVALLIS, Ore. – Carly Childs became the first California sophomore to claim a top 20 finish at the conference championship in four years, and classmate Hannah Suh tied for the lowest final round score of the day as California concluded competition at the Pac-12 Women’s Golf Championships held at the Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Ore.
Childs finished tied for 13th overall with a 73-73-74=220 (+4) to become the first Golden Bear sophomore to earn a top 20 finish at the conference tournament since Joanne Lee took eighth in 2010 with an identical 220 (67-77-76). Childs, along with Suh who hit six birdies Sunday en route to a 3-under 69 – tied for the best score of the day – helped push California up one spot into a seventh-place finish.
The Bears as a team scored a 298-299-291=888 (+24), a three spot and 37-stroke improvement from their finish at the 2013 Pac-12 Women’s Golf Championship.
Stanford won the team title by one stroke over Arizona and USC with an 869 (+5). Allison Lee of UCLA won the individual title with a 70-72-69=211 (-5).
“Last year wasn’t us at all,” California head coach Nancy McDaniel said. “This is a new group. They are much more mature group, especially Carly and Hannah. They’ve grown up a lot. That’s a decision you make after freshman year, you have to decide what am I here for. They decided they want to be student-athletes. A lot of their progress is because of the conscious decision they made.”
Childs and senior Nicola Rössler both entered the final day of competition with a possibility of claiming top 10 individual finishes at the tournament. Childs finished one stroke shy of the mark but still claimed her best finish of the 2014 spring season at 13th with a 4-over 220. Birdies on the par-4 2nd and 12th holes kept her in contention, and she finished the day strong with six consecutive pars.
“Carly played really well,” McDaniel said. “She stayed super composed. She’s just been grinding very well. She’s starting to hit a few more greens. She’s been working on doing range work with her swing. When she adds in a few greens, her score usually goes down. I’m really encouraged by her play and her consistency of play. It’s always good to see her putting three rounds together instead of just two or one. This is the time you really want that.”
Rössler was also on track to close out with her first career top 10 finish at the conference championship, but a scorecard error led to a disqualification for the senior.
“When that happens, you hope it doesn’t happen during a conference championship, but even with that she was solid all week for us,” McDaniel said of the scorecard error.
Freshman Lucia Gutierrez was the second Bear to shoot under-par Sunday as she jumped up from 42nd to start the day to 21st to finish. The freshman who has been a mainstay in the California lineup rebounded from a rough start to the weekend to finish with her second-lowest 54-hole score of the season at 77-75-71=223 (+7). Sunday’s 71 was her third round under par this season and came by hitting even on 15 of 18 holes to go with birdies on the 3rd and 13th.
“Lucia was sick for three weeks and didn’t touch a club,” McDaniel said of Gutierrez, who had not competed since the SDSU Farms Invitational from March 24-26. “To have her come in and shoot an under-par round in her third competitive round in the last month is really encouraging. We worked a lot on her being patient. Her first nine holes of the tournament Friday were the worst, and she improved every round after that. She played 45 really solid holes of golf and that helped us out.”
Suh led the way for California Sunday with a 3-under 69 to finish the tournament tied for 25th with a 77-78-69=224 (+8). Suh hit birdies on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 14th and 18th Sunday en route to matching her career-low round at 69.
“I know Hannah was super frustrated in the first two rounds,” McDaniel said. “That frustration mounts to a point with a player of that caliber. She came out today with a different mindset of ‘I’m going to get this done. My team is playing well so I have to play well.’ She knows she an integral part of this team.”
Junior Jo Ee Kok put together yet another solid tournament and placed 48th in her first career appearance at the Pac-12 Championships. Kok entered the tournament averaging 77.8 strokes per round this spring, and she continued to display that consistency with a 76-78-77=231 (+15) – exactly 77 strokes per round. Kok, who earned a permanent spot in the lineup beginning with the Bruin Wave Invitational from March 3-4, had all three of her rounds score for the Golden Bears this weekend.
“Jo Ee has come so far this year,” McDaniel said. “To have her playing in our lineup has been tremendous. It feels good when you’re on the golf course and know someone has your back with a consistent form that we can depend on every single week, and she has shown that consistency that we needed. That’s an element that’s super important in the entire team makeup.”
COURSE: Trysting Tree Golf Club (6,256 yards, par-72) – Corvallis, Ore.