Women's Golf Heads To California For Bruin Classic

March 8, 2002

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On The Tee:
At Pioneer Electronics
Bruin Classic
March 11-12
Menifee Lakes
Country Club
Menifee, Calif.
Par 72, 6,019 Yards

This Week: After posting a second-place finish at the Inland Collegiate Challenge three weeks ago, the Washington State women's golf team jumps into the spring season full throttle next week. The Cougars travel to Los Angeles for the Pioneer Electronics Bruin Classic, hosted by UCLA, March 11-12. The 54-hole tournament, at the par-72, 6,019 yards Menifee Lakes Country Club, will encompass 36 holes, Monday, March 11 with the final 18 taking place, Tuesday, March 12.

The Bruin Classic begins a stretch of five tournaments in as many weeks for the Cougars leading up to the Pacific-10 Conference Championship, hosted by WSU, April 22-24 at the Walla Walla Country Club in Walla Walla, Wash.

The Field: Along with WSU and UCLA, the 16-team field includes BYU, California, Cal State Northridge, Colorado, Long Beach State, Nevada Las Vegas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pepperdine, Portland State, San Diego State, San Francisco, and UC Irvine. Six teams in the field - Pepperdine (20), Oklahoma (22), California (26), New Mexico (27), San Francisco (43) and BYU (48) - are ranked in the top 50 by Golfstat.

WSU Head Coach Walt Williams on this week's tournament: 'It is a very strong field. There are about 10 teams in the field that we need to be competitive against in order to make it to regionals. We are looking to go down there and try to beat those teams and improve our regional standing. Our goal is to finish anywhere in the sixth to 10th place range. That would be a good step for us because it would put us ahead of some of those teams that we are in competition with for a regional berth. We would like to make a good showing and start the spring off on a positive note.'

Fabulous Freshman: Freshman Kim Welch has posted four top-14 efforts thus far this season. The Sacramento, Calif., native captured a victory at the Lady Vandal Fall Invitational, Oct. 2., and a sixth place finish at the Ram Fall Classic, Sept. 11. In addition, Welch completed the Oregon State Shanico Golf Invitational in a tie for 14th place, Oct. 10. Welch began the spring season with a fifth place effort at the Inland Collegiate, Feb. 18. The win at the Lady Vandal Invite marked the first triumph by a Cougar in a tournament since Kelly Wilson achieved the feat at the Lady Lumberjack Invitational in 1998.

Browner Tops All-Time List: With three top-10 finishes this season, senior Tasha Browner has increased her total number of career top-10 finishes to 10. That has placed the Tarzana, Calif., native at the pinnacle of WSU's all-time list in that category. Browner entered the fall season sharing the record, which stood at seven, with Jill A. Johnson (1988-91) and Erin Johnsrud (1989-90). Browner staked her claim to sole possession of the record with a third place effort at the Ram Fall Classic, Sept. 11 and a fourth place finish at the Lady Vandal Classic, Oct. 2. Browner began the spring campaign with a third place finish at the Inland Collegiate, Feb. 18.

Record Breaking Effort: The Cougars set a team scoring record in their first tournament of the fall season. The team's final round score of 297 at the Ram Fall Classic, Sept. 11 set the school record for lowest single-round team score. The Cougars broke the previous record of 298 set a year ago to the day at the same tournament. The record-breaking final round gave the Cougars a three-round total of 898, setting the mark for the lowest three-round team score. The previous mark was 900 set at the Ram Fall Classic, Sept. 12.

Season Outlook: The goal of every golf team at the beginning of the spring season is to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

After the 2000 season, the WSU women's team achieved that objective as the Cougars advanced to postseason play for the first time in school history.

And as far as Walt Williams is concerned, when the NCAA Women's West Regional arrives in May, he expects his WSU women's golf team to make a return presence to the tournament.

'I don't think we are out of NCAA regional competition as a team,' said the fourth year head coach. ' With a good spring I believe we can jump right back in the race for a spot in the regionals.'

Even if the team doesn't make it to the NCAA's, Williams believes he has a pair of players who have an opportunity to earn individual selections - senior Tasha Browner and freshman Kim Welch.

'I think Kim and Tasha have an excellent chance to make it to regionals as individuals,' said Williams.

Williams has good reason to believe this based on the play of this dynamic duo from the fall season.

Browner, who has earned an NCAA West Region selection in the past two seasons (the latter as an individual pick), enters the spring looking to build on her school record nine career top-10 finishes. Two of those efforts came over the fall as the Tarzana, Calif., native secured a pair of top five finishes at the Ram Fall Classic and Lady Vandal Fall Invitational.

'Tasha had a solid fall, which I fully expected from her,' said Williams. 'She is a great player. I look for great things out of her this spring as well.'

While Browner enjoyed a solid fall campaign, it was the play of Welch that turned heads.Welch posted three top-14 efforts through the course of the fall including a victory at the Lady Vandal Fall Invitational, Oct. 2.

Welch's efforts earned the Sacramento, Calif., native a No. 64 ranking by Golfstat at the conclusion of the fall season.

'Kim had a tremendous fall,' said Williams. 'She exceeded expectations. I am very excited about Kim and what she can do this spring.'

While Browner and Welch hold the top two positions with the Cougars, the depth of the remainder of the team was a concern for Williams.

'I was a little disappointed with the depth in the fall,' said Williams. 'We didn't show the depth that we needed in order to compete at the highest level.'

A mixture of experience and youth make up six individuals that Williams looks to provide solid backing to the play of Browner and Welch this spring.

Senior Jara Goldstein, a transfer from Cal State Northridge, posted a 13th place effort at the Ram Fall Classic in her first tournament as a Cougar this fall. Juniors Donna Bell and Jackie Stevens bring resumes that features a combined seven career top-25 finishes along with three top-10 efforts to the Cougars.

Sophomore Natalie Bratkowski and freshman Nicole Hebner saw considerable action this fall, which Williams believes will pay dividends in the spring.

'We need some of the younger players that acquired a little more experience over the fall to step up this spring,' said Williams.

To bolster the depth of the team, Williams has also added a newcomer, freshman Jay-Lee Longbottom from Perth, Australia.

The spring schedule will take WSU to tournaments hosted by Hawaii and BYU, in addition to events hosted by Pac-10 rivals UCLA, Oregon and Stanford.

All the spring tournaments will serve as precursors to the Pac-10 Championships, hosted by WSU, April 22-24 and the NCAA West Regional, hosted by Stanford, May 9-11.

According to Williams, when May 9 arrives on the calendar, the Crimson and Gray will be making an appearance at Stanford.

'I fully expect Washington State women's golf will be represented at the NCAA West Regionals,' Williams said. 'I hope it will be the entire team.'

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