W-Golf Opens Spring Season
Boulder - The women's golf team will tee up their spring calendar next week when they take on a field that includes eight nationally ranked programs at the Wildcat Invitational at the Arizona National Golf Club and Sabino Springs in Tucson Feb. 24-26.
The 54-hole challenge will cover 18 holes each day as the Buffs take on host, and third-ranked, Arizona, No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 8 Washington, No. 9 Southern California, 11th-ranked Pepperdine, 14th-ranked Tennessee, No. 16 UCLA and 24th-ranked Stanford as well as Arkansas, BYU, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico State and Northern Arizona in what will arguably be one of the toughest fields CU has seen lately.
"This is the strongest field, especially regionally, that I think I've ever seen," said sixth-year head coach Anne Kelly. "UNC-Wilmington was tough, but I would put this ahead of that due to its regional flavor."
Kelly and the Buffs are coming off their strongest fall season in the history of the program as the average strokes per round was 78.7 and the team's tournament average was a program low 306.8 in six team appearances.
"We were doing some things really well... we were hitting greens in regulation and hitting birdies which is reflected in our low tournament scores. We didn't win any tournaments, but we were sure close a couple of times," said Kelly of her team's third-place finishes at the Highlands Ranch Intercollegiate and CU's own Heather Farr Memorial on back-to-back weekends.
Coming off a strong fall season, Colorado is on par to reach some of its team goals set back in September. One goal was to have a 306 or lower tournament average, and with a 306.8 there is definitely little room for error. Winning at least a pair of tournaments was within their reach in the fall, and they will carry that momentum in to the spring's next five tournaments.
But the real carrot dangling in front of them is to make postseason play. Kelly feels her sixth team is on the bubble.
"The NCAA will take around 20 teams per region with a few of those being automatic qualifiers. My best educated guess is that we're hovering in the 16-18 range."
Colorado's chances for the immediate tournament lay in the hands of senior co-captains Erin Kerr and Jolene Fellhauer, sophomores Allison Rella and Joey Stetser and newcomer Maria Persson Gulda.
For a third straight season, Kerr is Kelly's low score as she posted a 75.0 strokes per average last fall en route to two individual runner-up finishes and a fourth-place effort. Right behind Kerr was Rella who had a career-best fall at 76.9 and was the Buffs' top individual at the Oregon State Shanico Invitational with a fifth-place finish. Despite being slightly off her junior year pace, Fellhauer carded a school-record 67 in the second round of the Highlands Ranch Intercollegiate and closed out the season with a team best 233 in Las Vegas.
Stetser shaved almost four strokes off her fall-only average between her freshman and sophomore years and is reaping the benefits with a 78.8 strokes per average heading into next week's competition. But she will battle Persson Gulda who had an impressive opening collegiate fall swing with three top-20 finishes. The pair will be constantly looking over their shoulders as senior Lynn Ann Moretto, junior Robin Worthington as well as freshman Jessie Malcolm will be looking to break into the travel roster as the spring progresses.
Without looking too far ahead, Kelly will take the nation's leading percentage of fairways hit (84.9%), a 306 tournament average and a team of four determined seniors into what could be the most exciting season of Colorado women's golf yet.