My adventure on Big Break Atlantis was breath taking, frightening, thrilling and overall, simply wonderful. Participating in Big Break was an enormous undertaking that frequently leaves me speechless when people ask me what the experience was like. Frankly, it was unlike anything I have ever experienced and will quite possibly remain in a category all by itself for the rest of my life.
I cannot recall an event, golf or not, in my brief 23 years that has evoked loads of emotions in such a fleeting amount of time. Confusion, uncertainty, exhilaration, frustration, dejection all overcame me in just a few days. I am certain, however, that I would by no means trade my time in Atlantis for anything.
Other than coming away from Big Break with 11 new friends and a recent appreciation for those who have dedicated their time putting together and producing a reality show, I gained a heightened admiration for the importance of the saying, “Take one shot at a time.” I have realized that cliches become cliches because 99% of the time they are 100% true. You might think that focusing for 18 holes is a daunting task, but trying to take the focus of 18 holes and put it into one shot left me with an unnerving force I wasn’t sure how to handle.
Henry B. Adams once said, “All experience is an arc to build upon.” This quote has continually become more and more meaningful and relevant to my career as a professional golfer since Big Break. Although I left Paradise Island with a crushing feeling of letdown, I realized that I learned two significant lessons: I could turn my perceived failure into a positive and use it as fuel toward a successful season and that pressure is a self induced form of temporary imagination. I intend to use these two priceless lessons as building blocks to continue developing and strengthening my mental stamina for the rest of my competitive career.
Life after Big Break has been a whirlwind, but trying to balance a competitive career and quasi-celebrity status has been an exciting undertaking. I’ve been blessed to receive letters and messages with incredible words of encouragement and inspiration from friends, family and complete strangers. These days I try not to dwell on my early exit from the show. The past, however, has helped me appreciate the present - and I don't want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future. This summer I plan to play some state open championships, sprinkled in with a few Symetra Tour events and hopefully end up at LPGA Qualifying School in Daytona Beach, Florida in the fall, but ultimately I hope and believe that at the end of the day I just happen to be in the right place and right time.
Experience Is An Arc
Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title
STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.
Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?
The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.
“Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.
Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.
“I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”
Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.
Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.
“They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”
After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.
And the Wildcats better rest up.
Alabama looks unstoppable.
“They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”
Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.
After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.
They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.
Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.
“It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”
They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.
“We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”
That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.
The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.
“They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.
It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”
Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.
They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.
Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.
“I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”
Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.
Pairings, tee times set for championship match
STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.
Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.
“We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”
Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.
Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.
Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.
“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.
Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)
3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)
3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)
3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)
3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)
4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)
Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama
STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.
Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.
Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.
Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.
Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.
Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.
“I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.
Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”
NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times
The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.
- Finals: Alabama vs. Arizona
- Semifinals: Alabama def. USC, 3.5-1.5
- Semifinals: Arizona def. Stanford, 4-1
- Quarterfinals: Alabama def. Kent State, 4-1
- Quartefinals: USC def. Duke, 3.5-1.5
- Quarterfinals: Arizona def. UCLA, 3-2
- Quarterfinals: Stanford def. Northwestern, 3-2
- Individual stroke play
TV Times (all times ET):
4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)