College Review: Florida State takes next step

By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2014, 3:28 pm

Each week on, we’ll review the main storylines in college golf.

Biggest takeaway: Florida State has taken the next step

There’s a new No. 1 on the men’s side after the Seminoles made four birdies in the last two holes and beat seven top-30 programs – including former No. 1 Illinois – at the Tavistock Collegiate. After runner-up finishes in each of its first two starts – both times losing to the host school, Illinois (Olympia Fields) and Alabama (Jerry Pate) – FSU finally got in the win column after four Seminoles finished inside the top 13 individually, including T-3s from both 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year Jack Maguire and junior Rowin Caron. Florida State reached the NCAA finals a year ago, but flamed out in the stroke-play portion. Expect a deeper run this year, with a strong, well-balanced lineup that features three sophomores and two juniors. This mightn’t be the Seminoles’ last week atop the rankings. 

Team of the week: Texas 

Ah, now that’s more like it for the preseason No. 2. Locked in a compelling duel with Virginia, the Longhorns eked out a one-shot victory at the U.S. Collegiate to take home its first team title of the season. Top-10s by Gavin Hall and Scottie Scheffler were welcome signs in the best tournament on the fall schedule, but the key for the No. 5-ranked Longhorns might have been the addition of Kramer Hickok. To underscore just how deep and talented this roster is, consider this: Hickok is a two-time All-Big 12 selection, but he couldn’t even crack the starting five coming out of team qualifying. He squeaked through for the U.S. Collegiate, then finished 15th in his season debut. One of only two seniors on the team, Hickok is the glue that holds this squad together. 

Player of the week: Derek Bard, Virginia

The sophomore (pictured above), ranked No. 34 by Golfstat, dusted the field with a closing 64 at the U.S. Collegiate to capture medalist honors by six shots. Bard’s 15-under 201 was the third-lowest 54-hole total in school history (behind only PGA Tour players Ben Kohles and Steve Marino). In just 14 career starts, Bard has already amassed six top 10s, though this was the first victory of his career. His win, along with teammate Denny McCarthy’s runner-up finish, nearly helped Virginia pull off a big upset in Georgia. The Cavs, now ranked No. 8, ultimately finished one shot behind Texas. 

Biggest disappointment: Oklahoma State 

Things went from bad to worse for the Cowboys, a team we had ranked No. 1 entering the season. After placing no better than fifth in its first two starts, Oklahoma State finished 14th in the 15-team field at the U.S. Collegiate and now has tumbled all the way to No. 41 in Golfstat’s latest rankings. Three OK State players finished outside the top 60 individually, including junior Jordan Niebrugge (73rd), who was making his first start of the season after being sidelined with a wrist injury. Sophomore Wyndham Clark, one of the nation’s best a year ago, has yet to record a top 10 this season. The Cowboys will look to salvage what has been a disappointing fall at their final event, the Oct. 28-29 Royal Oaks Intercollegiate.

Keep an eye on: USC

Sophomore Rico Hoey and freshman Jonah Texeira finished second and third, respectively, at the Bill Cullum Invitational in helping lead the Trojans to an 11-shot win over Arizona State and their second first-place finish of the season (lost in a team playoff at the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate). Losing Anthony Paolucci (Q-School) definitely hurts, but Hoey has stepped up to record a pair of top 3s this season. Last year, he had eight top 10s and earned first-team Pac-12 honors. Freshman Sean Crocker also looks like one of the country’s brightest newcomers, twice finishing in the top 4 in four starts.

What you may have missed: Vanderbilt’s Hunter Stewart and Carson Jacobs comprise the best 1-2 punch in the country. That much was clear after they held down the top two individual spots at the Tavistock, where Stewart’s closing 66 was enough to steal the title from his teammate. Stewart now has two wins this season, while Jacobs has finished inside the top 12 in all four starts. (Vanderbilt is the only team with two players ranked in Golfstat’s top 10.) With Matthias Schwab on the mend, Vandy will be a top-5 program come March. … Two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama took a huge hit when sophomore Gavin Moynihan, a 2013 GB&I Walker Cupper, left the team because of homesickness. I wrote about the impact of that decision here. … Arizona State’s Jon Rahm won for the fourth time in his career Tuesday at the Bill Cullum Invite. Whenever he decides to turn pro – he’s only a junior – he won’t need to wait long for his first pro title. This kid is immensely talented. …  Stanford, USC and UCLA, three of the top women’s programs, were separated by only one shot at this week’s Stanford Intercollegiate. Cardinal sophomore Mariah Stackhouse sank a 33-footer on the last to secure a share of the team title with USC, while UCLA finished one behind.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 11:00 am

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.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)

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Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

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.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

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.

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Pairings, tee times set for championship match

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

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)

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Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

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.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

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.”