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I’ve said it this whole semester, and I’ll say it again.
The No. 11 CU women’s golf team is going to the national championships.
This weekend, the Buffs travel to Pullman, Wash. for the Pac-12 Championships.
After that, Colorado hosts the NCAA West Regional at the Colorado National Golf Club in Erie on May 10-12. On a familiar course, the odds for these girls to be in the top eight at regionals and advance to the finals in Tennessee in late May are highly in their favor.
Can the Buffs win it all? Head coach Anne Kelly said it’s hard to tell.
“There’s an advantage where the team knows the golf course very well,” Kelly said. “On the other hand, there’s expectations that we don’t have at other tournaments.”
The 2011-12 season for the women’s golf team has been all about crushing expectations, going from the best of times to the even better of times. February and March were the two best months in the program’s history with the Buffs winning two huge tournaments in Arizona and Hawaii. The team’s worst finish was seventh.
Kelly said this type of play was not unexpected.
“In general, the team has been playing well all year,” Kelly said. “We’ve just been progressing throughout the spring. It’s been a lot of fun, and all the credit is due to the team. They work hard, they’re very competitive and they want to do well.”
And she’s exactly right, because at its very core, golf is an individual sport.
But the core group of girls, senior Emily Talley, sophomore Alex Stewart, senior Jessica Wallace and the sophomore Coleman twins, Kristin and Jenny, have been playing at a historic level collectively.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be on a team that’s doing so well,” said Talley, who has been a part of many years of struggling Buffs teams. “It’s been a long time coming.”
There are several reasons the Buffs have done so much better this year. The most obvious is the conference switch to the Pac-12, which is by far the most talented conference in women’s college golf with eight teams ranked in the top 25. Playing against such incredible programs on a regular basis has forced the Buffs to up their game, which has in turn made Colorado an elite program.
Being in the elite Pac-12 Conference has been a huge attraction for talented young ladies across the country. Sophomore Alex Stewart, one the best players on the CU team, is a transfer student from Purdue University, an elite program that won the 2010 National Championship and was a runner-up in 2011.
Now that she’s settled in Colorado, Stewart said her individual play has started to rise.
“Now that the weather has gotten nicer, that’s helped a lot too,” Stewart said.
Although Stewart has a great sense of humor, she’s all business when she’s on the course. This spring, through 15 rounds of play, she leads the Buffs with a stroke average of 73.33 per round, just ahead of Talley who is at 73.47.
This weekend the Buffs travel to the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash., where they will take on the likes of No. 1 University of California, Los Angeles, No. 3 University of Southern California and No. 4 Arizona State University, as well as the rest of the stacked conference at the Pac-12 Championships.
Not only is the competition tough at this weekend’s tournament, the course is also very difficult, Kelly said.
“The course is not a tree-line course; it’s more like our home course, Colorado National,” Kelly said. “The course is fairly long, and it has a lot of hazards in regards to water, bunkers and rough. I’m sure the wind can really get blowing out there. The forecast isn’t looking great, but hopefully that works out to our advantage as well.”
The Buffs should be able to outplay their competition even if the weather is harsh. The team has had a trend this past year of playing well in poor conditions, including its victory at the Clover Cup in Scottsdale, Ariz. in mid-March.
The Pac-12 Tournament begins on Friday, April 27. The Buffs are scheduled to tee off at 9:10 a.m. PT from the 10th tee alongside the University of Southern California and Oregon State University.
The way this year’s been going, there is plenty of room to believe that the Buffs will perform well at the Pac-12 Championships. But while it’s important to the Buffs to play well this weekend, Talley said the NCAA Tournament is the team’s top priority.
“The Pac-12 is going to be a competitive field, but we’ve proven ourselves against a lot of the teams throughout the year,” Talley said. “We just have to go in there and believe in ourselves and know that this is not our last tournament. Hopefully, we can do well because it’s our first year in the Pac-12, and then we’ll get ready for regionals the following week. That’s the tournament that is a really big deal.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Joseph Wirth at Joseph.email@example.com.