STILLWATER, Okla. – It is almost as if the California women’s golfers are aware of the history after the team had another outstanding round and sit second overall at the NCAA Central Regional held at the Karsten Creek Golf Club.
In 14 trips to NCAA Women’s Golf Regional Championships, the Golden Bears have been shipped out of the west region just four times – in 2001 (Central), 2003 (Central), 2006 (East) and 2011 (East). In each of those four trips outside of the region, California has advanced to compete in the NCAA Championship rounds.
After 36 of 54 holes in the Central Regional this year, the 12th-seeded Golden Bears have put themselves in position to continue that impressive streak.
The top eight teams at the conclusion of three rounds at the Oklahoma State-hosted regional will advance to compete in the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Tulsa, Okla. California not only has positioned itself well after scoring a 294 Friday to bring its two-day score to 589 (+13), but the Bears are in contention for their first regional championship since winning the 2003 Central Regional held in Lincoln, Nebraska.
With 18 holes, the Golden Bears sit one stroke behind leader UCLA (588, +12) and are seven strokes ahead of the cut..
“The last time we came to the Central Regional, we won by 20 shots in 2003,” California head coach Nancy McDaniel said. “We had a really amazing year that year. It was probably our eighth tournament win. I have a good feeling knowing that each time we’ve come out of our region we’ve performed well. Each of the times that we’ve been outside our region for qualification, we’ve done a solid enough job to get in the championship. That doesn’t mean anything; it just gives us a good feeling.”
California entered the second round tied for first after scoring 295 in the opening round, and the Bears had an even better Friday by scoring 294 that was led by an under-par round from freshman Lucia Gutierrez. The Peru native shot a 1-under 71 and now sits tied alongside sophomore Hannah Suh for 16th on the individual leaderboard at 146 (+2).
Senior Nicola Rössler shot a 1-over 73 and is tied for 20th individually at 74-73=147 (+3). Sophomore Carly Childs is 36th at 150 (+6) and junior Jo Ee Kok improved by two strokes from her first round and has a 150 (+6).
“I was proud of these guys to be able to find enough to do in the morning to keep their minds off it and get the good energy it takes to play throughout the day,” McDaniel said. “It’s a quick turnaround tonight, which is nice because it doesn’t give you too much time to think about stuff. We play that back side well and it gives you momentum going into the final round.”
Like Thursday’s opening round, the Bears performed better on the back nine than on the front nine. Rössler rebounded from going +2 on the front nine to shooting 1-under on the back nine with eight pars coupled with a birdie on the par-5 14th. Suh also hit eight pars on the back nine with the lone blemish a bogey on the par-3 15th. For her part, Gutierrez hit seven pars on the back nine and dropped her score down by birdieing the 12th and 18th holes.
Despite those consistent performances, perhaps the most impressive showing was from Childs who shot a 76 Friday despite hitting a triple-bogey on the par-4 5th and two double-bogeys on the back nine. Childs saw her score shoot up to +6 after 13 holes when she carded her third multiple-bogey hole, but birdies on the 15th and 18th dropped her score to a 4-over 76 – an exceptional score in a round with a triple and two double-bogeys.
“We haven’t quite figured out how to play the front side, so you can see that we’re a little high on the front,” McDaniel said. “We’ll work on that tonight and figure out how to play that better. (But) The players are all really charged up. They feel like they left a good amount of shots on the course. They didn’t feel like enough of them went in today, so they’re in a good frame of mind for tomorrow.”
“This team is ready to play in a national championship,” McDaniel added. “There’s no reason for us to think that this team can’t make it through this qualifier.”
COURSE: Karsten Creek Golf Club (7,449 yards, par-72) – Stillwater, Okla.