BATON ROUGE -- The LSU Lady Tigers saw their golf season come to an end Saturday afternoon at The University Club as they failed to advance to the national championships as one of the top eight teams as the 2007 NCAA East Regional women’s tournament closed a three-day run at the LSU home course.
LSU finished 14th in the tournament with a 54-hole score of 881 that is the 10th lowest aggregate score in the nearly 30 years of the program, but one that wasn’t good enough to qualify against a field that buried the par-72 6,400-yard layout under a barrage of birdies. The Lady Tigers posted an 11-over par 299 on the final day after opening rounds of one-under 287 and seven-over 295 to finish at 17-over par.
The East Regional on paper appeared to be the toughest of the three with 12 teams in the top 28 in the country and three more in the top 40. That certainly proved to be true and with all the teams knocking it close and then making the putts, it was set up to be a paradise for those that could make the accurate shot to the green and sink the putt.
UCLA had the big early tournament advantage on the course, but the two-time defending national champions from Duke made their presence felt starting on the final nine holes of Friday’s final round and dominated play on Saturday to win the regional crown by two shots over the Bruins as the top two seeds finished one-two.
Duke, after an opening day three-over par 291, posted rounds of seven-under 281 Friday and an amazing 16 under par 272 in the final round to finish at 20-under par 844. UCLA shot six-under on the final day and finished at 18-under par.
Other qualifying teams were Wake Forest at six-under par (858), Auburn three-under (861), Purdue and North Carolina two-under (862), Alabama 868 (four-over) and Louisville 870 (six-over). Virginia made a late run to get into the top eight during the afternoon wave, but couldn’t get closer than three strokes.
The Duke attack was led by the winner of the LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic back in March, Amanda Blumenherst who broke the University Club course record for women by three shots (a record already tied three times earlier in the weekend) when she fired a nine-under par 63.
Blumenherst did not record a four on her card on the first nine holes, with birdies on the par four first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth in turning at five-under 31. After making birdie on the 10th, she bogeyed the 12th hole and recorded three more birdies to come in with a 32 on the final nine holes.
The big round did not get Blumenhurst all the way up the leader board, putting her in a tie for second in the individual competition at 10-under par (73-70-63) 206, with Tiffany John of UCLA (70-68-68). Sydnee Michaels of UCLA was the tournament medalist going wire-to-wire with a 13-under par 203 (66-68-69).
The top two individual players who advanced to the national championships from teams not in the finals was not decided until late in the afternoon following a playoff for the final spot. Caroline Westrup of Florida State advanced after tying for fifth at eight-under 208.
Lene Krog of East Carolina and Kathleen Ekey of Furman tied for the second spot and were forced to have a playoff after both finished at four-under 212. The playoff, which began shortly after 6:30 p.m. from the par-four 10th, had to quickly be stopped after both players hit their drives when a sudden brief thunderstorm came over the course. The playoff was resumed after a 43 minute delay but by the time the players reached the green it was too dark to continue and Krog was awarded the second spot based on her final round score (67) compared to Ekey (74) on Saturday.
Eaton finished in a tie for 26th spot at one-over 217 in her final appearance as a member of the Lady Tiger team. Eaton, who lettered for four years at LSU from South Africa with her twin sister Nicola, posted rounds of 68-74-75. Rather finished in a tie for 48th.
“Friday we were disappointed we didn’t make some putts, but it didn’t feel like we played poorly,” said LSU Coach Karen Bahnsen. (Saturday) I felt like we needed to shoot at least even par to (make the championship field). Really early in the round we were kind of heading on that and then just a couple of bad holes and I thought, Okay, maybe we can still make it,’ and then we made the turn and the wheels just kind of fell off to be honest. The difference maker, even all day (Saturday), were putts just not going in the hole and that’s the difference in winning and losing.
“We have got to figure out how to get them in the hole. To the green, I thought we could hit it with anybody. It’s just a matter of getting the ball in the hole. They put in great effort. You hope to get a few breaks here and there and they just weren’t there. I am proud of them regardless. They will grow and get better. It’s disappointing in hosting it, but what an incredible field we had here.”
The SEC would qualify five SEC teams between the two here and Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee in the Central Regional in Ann Arbor, Mich. Auburn Coach Kim Evans was very happy to have her Tigers down here on a course that they were familiar with, even though the conditions were different from the Cleveland Classic to the regional.
“I know you had a lot of rain last week (Friday),” said Evans. “The course played shorter because of that. In March, it’s a spring wind and a little damper. Now it’s a summer wind and it is harder and faster. The greens were incredible. They had great speed. It’s always fun to come down here. We love to come play here. There is such great hospitality. We feel like this is home to us.”
The 2007 NCAA Division I National Championships will be held at the LPGA International Course in Daytona Beach, Fla., May 22-25.
NCAA East Regional Women’s Tournament
Baton Rouge, La. The University Club
Final Team Results (Par 288-864; top 8 advance to NCAA Championships)
1.Duke 291-281-272 844 -20; 2. UCLA 281-283-282 846 -18; 3. Wake Forest 284-284-290 858 -6; 4. Auburn 293-282-286 861 -3; 5. Purdue 285-290-287 862 -2; 5. North Carolina 290-292-280 862 -2; 7. Alabama 287-289-292 868 +4; 8. Louisville 286-289-295 870 +6; 9. South Carolina 290-289-295 874 +10; 9. Virginia 295-288-291 874 +10; 11. Florida State 292-298-285 875 +11; 11. Furman 284-290-301 875 +11; 13. Texas A&M 291-288-299 878 +14; 14. LSU 287-295-299 881 +17; 15. Birmingham-Southern 297-295-298 890 +26; 16. Charleston 292-303-296 891 +27; 17. South Florida 306-294-294 894 +30; 18. North Carolina State 302-303-294 899 +35; 19. Western Carolina 301-308-297 906 +42; 20. Jacksonville State 324-301-311 936 +72; 21. Jackson State 329-325-325 979 +115.
Final Individual Top 25 (Par 72-216)
1.Sydnee Michaels, UCLA, 66-68-69 203 -13; 2. Tiffany Joh, UCLA, 70-68-68 206 10; 2. Amanda Blumenherst, Duke, 73-70-63 206 -10; 4. Nicole Hage, Auburn, 68-70-69 207 -9; 5. Cindy LaCrosse, Louisville, 69-68-71 208 -8; 5. Caroline Westrup, Florida State, 69-69-70 208 -8 (individual qualifier); 7. Adrienne White, Louisville, 66-73-71 210 -6; 8. Nannette Hill, Wake Forest, 66-70-75 211; 9. Lene Krog, East Carolina, 74-71-67 212 -4; 9. Kathleen Ekey, Furman, 67-71-74 212 -4; 9. Anna Grzebien, Duke, 71-71-70 212 -4; 12. Leah Wigger, Virginia, 71-69-73 213 -3; 13. Aruka Felgueroso, Coastal Carolina, 68-70-76 214 -2; 13. Stephanie Oukeo, Purdue, 70-71-73 214 -2; 13. Ashley Knoll, Texas A&M, 71-70-73 214 -2; 13. Kate Thomas, North Carolina, 70-74-70 214 -2; 13. Rachel Smith, Virginia, 72-74-68 214 -2; 18. Jennifer Pandolfi, Duke, 77-69-69 215 -1; 18. Mari Hernandez, Purdue, 74-71-70 215 -1; 18. Alison Whitaker, Duke, 74-71-70 215 -1; 18. Blair Lamb, Furman, 71-72-72 215 -1; 18. Christel Boeljon, Purdue, 69-74-72 215 -1; 23. Jean Chua, Wake Forest, 73-74-69 216 E; 23. Ann Laney, North Carolina, 73-76-67 216 E; 23. Desiree Karlsson, Western Carolina, 72-74-70 216 E.
East Regional Quotes --
Auburn Head Coach Kim Evans
On her team’s performance in the tournament:
“This first day we got off to a slow start and we’ve had a couple of down tournaments, but we got warmed up and I saw some good things. The second day we just came out ready to play. We had a great second round. This morning we started out a little slow, but once we got through that 10, 11 and 12, those first few holes, they loosed up and played solid.
“We are happy with the way we played. We are real excited to go to the NCAAs. We feel like we made great strides this week and we are excited to get down there and see what we can do.”
On the course this week versus when her team played in the Cleveland Classic in March:
“Of course (there was a difference in) the dryness. I know you had a lot of rain last week, I think it was Friday. The course played shorter because of that. In March it’s a spring wind and a little damper. Now it’s a summer wind and it’s harder and faster. The greens were incredible. They had great speed.”
“It’s always fun to come down here. We love to come down here. It’s great hospitality. We feel like this is home to us.”
Duke Coach Dan Brooks
"We just felt like there was plastic wrap over the cup the first two days," said Brooks. "We were playing some great golf, and the balls weren't going in the hole, but today they finally started to drop."
"The great thing about it [the win] is I don't think anything changed for the team," said Brooks. "After 13 or 14 holes in the second round we were still in eighth place, which was on some of the boards that we saw. I think my team was smart enough not to look at the boards and stayed with their game. By the end of the day we were in third place. By staying the same and not letting it affect them, I think that is why we were able to get in a good position."
LSU Head Coach Karen Bahnsen
On her team's play today:
“Yesterday we were disappointed we didn’t make some putts, bit it didn’t feel like we played poorly. Today I felt like we needed to shoot at least even par to do it (make the NCAA Championship field). And really early in the round we were kind of heading on that and then just a couple of bad holes and I thought, Okay, maybe we can still make it,’ and then we made the turn and the wheels just kind of fell off to be honest. The difference maker, even all day today, were putts just not going in the hole and that’s the difference in winning and losing. We have got to figure out how to get them in the hole. To the green I thought we could hit it with anybody. It’s just a matter of getting the ball in the hole. They put in great effort. You hope to get a few breaks here and there and they just weren’t there. I am proud of them regardless. They will grow and get better. It’s disappointing in hosting it, but what an incredible field we had here.”
On the tournament scoring being so low:
“I knew by far we had the deepest field. It’s not just top heavy, it’s the deepest. So I knew we were going to have to come in here and play some really great golf, but this low of scores is unbelievable. It was a golf course that was in perfect condition, perfect weather, great golfers and again the course isn’t easy by any means, but it was playing fast and hard and these girls played better and it was great to see it.”
“I do want to say how much I appreciate all the volunteers and everyone that has gotten involved with this tournament. I want to thank them for their support because it made a huge difference in how this tournament went off. I mean the others teams are saying, You should host the NCAA Championships. You are doing such a great job,’ and that’s really neat.”
On the season overall:
“Unfortunately, the way this tournament went was kind of how the season went. I would see so many spurts of goodness, but you see all year we were up and down, up and down, kind of like what happened this week. It’s not for lack of work because they work their tails off and really want it. We are just going to keep working on it and see what we can do. It will happen. I truly do believe that. We deserve it.”