SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As Texas associate head coach Kate Golden watched her Longhorns finish up their second rounds Saturday afternoon at Grayhawk, a huge gust of wind came out of nowhere, almost knocking her visor off of her head.
“We got about four of five calm holes,” said Golden, “but when we got to No. 15 (Texas started on the back nine), it really kicked up.”
It wasn’t just that the wind was gusty, Golden said, it was the unpredictability. One second, you could barely feel it. The next, you were almost getting blown over.
Luckily for Texas, which teed off in the afternoon wave, it withstood the blustery conditions and turned in an even-par 288. While the Longhorns lost their first-round lead to Stanford, they remain firmly among the coveted top eight spots that come Monday evening will include tickets to match play at the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship.
Other teams weren’t as lucky, as many of the higher seeds who got off to strong starts on Friday morning fell back. Arizona, Oregon and Kent State all dropped at least five spots on the board in the afternoon. The Golden Flashes shot 22 over and tumbled 13 places.
Now, the top of the leaderboard looks stouter with seven of the eight leading teams ranked ninth or better by Golfstat.
Those lower seeds certainly benefitted from calmer morning conditions on Saturday, especially the sixth-ranked Cardinal, who began their day at 6:30 a.m. and finished it at 7 under, four shots ahead of Duke, after a 10-under 278.
Stanford freshman Rachel Heck, already a five-time winner this season, maintained her individual lead, backing up an opening 3-under 69 with a second-round 67. At 8 under, she’s five clear of Duke’s Gina Kim and Louisville’s Lauren Hartlage.
“We have a long way to go, so we won’t be looking at where we stand, we will be heads down,” Stanford head coach Anne Walker said. “The 24 best teams in the country are here and anyone can get hot at any time, and that goes either way.”
A couple of top-10 teams are hoping they catch fire on Sunday. With a 54-hole cut to the top 15 teams looming, top-ranked South Carolina is T-14 at 24 over while No. 8 USC is 23rd and beating just one team at 31 over. Shocking positions for two teams who entered the week as popular title picks.
The Gamecocks did bounce back from carding the championship’s worst first-round score by shooting even par on Saturday. Pimnipa Panthong might’ve subbed in for a struggling Lois Kaye Ko and shot 90, but South Carolina’s other four players shot 73 or better, including sophomore star Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, whose 1-under 71 was 10 shots better than her Friday total.
The Trojans’ best player did not rebound. Allisen Corpuz is 17 over after rounds of 83-78, and that 78 counted Saturday.
However, for as bad as it’s gone for some teams these past two days, there’s still a lot of golf left. Just 20 shots separate sixth and 22nd, and Sunday's weather forecast calls for calmer and more predictable wind.
“I’m really proud of how they rebounded from yesterday, had some really solid rounds,” South Carolina head coach Kalen Anderson said. “We just gotta look forward to the next couple days and fight hard.”