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Apr 22, 2004

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BOULDER- With the youngest team that she's taken on the road this season, University of Colorado head women's golf coach Anne Kelly and the Buffs will kick off the postseason when the eighth annual Big 12 Championships, hosted by Texas A&M, will be decided this Friday through Sunday, April 23-25 on the par 72 6,242-yard Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station, Texas.


It will be the Buffs' first return to Pebble Creek since playing the GTE "Mo" Morial there during the 1998-99 season, "It's a fairly long, tree-lined course," recalled Kelly of her second season.  "But we've been playing Boulder CC, Coal Creek and Flatirons to prepare for it."


The 54-hole tournament format will consist of 54 holes played Friday, Saturday and Sunday with 7 a.m. (MDT) tee times off #1 and #10 each day.  Oklahoma State is the defending team champion and Nebraska's Sarah Sasse was last year's medalist.  The Buffs will be paired with Missouri and Texas Tech on Friday and will be the first group on the first tee.


Colorado's travel roster for this weekend includes Hannah Hoch, Maria Persson Gulda, Allison Rella, Regina Rodriguez and Lindsay Koth.  Hoch, Rodriguez and Koth will be making their first postseason appearance, Persson Gulda, just her second and Rella her third.


"We've been saying all year that this was a season to build for the future.  We've been weak in the fourth and fifth player and hopefully this combination of players will come together this weekend.  More importantly, we definitely want to go out on a positive note and play like we're capable of.  We need to have consistency, shoot low scores and have everyone contribute."


The Big 12 remains one of the toughest women's golf leagues in the nation, with eight teams ranked in the top 50 in the and rankings  Oklahoma State is the conference's top-ranked team at eighth in one poll and seventh in the other.  Texas and Oklahoma are also ranked in the Top 25.  Missouri, Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas Tech are in the Top 50.  Individually, six Big 12 golfers are ranked in the Top 50.


The Buffs, who finished 10th a year ago in Columbia, Mo., will go into the tournament as an obvious underdog, but hope that while they are being overlooked, they make some noise.  Going into the weekend the Buffs have had six top-10 finishes and they're carrying a team tournament average of 313.0 in 11 outings this year while No. 1 golfer Hannah Hoch has the team's low strokes per average (76.90), which is currently ranked 22nd in the league.


With three top-10 finishes and five top-20, Hoch is the first freshman since Sarah Bellinger (1997) to lead the team in strokes per average, doing so in a freshman class record.  Her second place finish in only her second collegiate tournament was the second-best in program history and top finish for a freshman in the program's 10 years and her third round 68 at the Lady Aztec Fall Invitational was one shy of the school record and established another freshman best.  If she maintains her current strokes per average through the remainder of the season, it will be the third lowest season average in CU history.


Persson Gulda christened her sophomore season with a career low 71 in the opening round of the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic.  Her season strokes per average, 77.3, is a season career low for the sophomore. 

She's been CU's low tournament score a team high six times this season, including a career-best fifth place at the Lady Aztec Fall Invitational where she carded a career best 219 in a 54-hole loop.


Colorado's low score in this tournament a year ago, the true veteran of this year's team, and this weekend's roster, Rella owns the team's third lowest strokes per average with a 79.2, which includes a career low 71 in the second round of the Lady Aztec Fall Invitational where she finished 22nd.


Rodriguez played as an individual in the first two tournaments of the season and made enough of an impression that she played as a scoring member the last five.  Her 19 rounds this season are the second most by a first year player and her 80.7 strokes per average is the fifth lowest on the team.


The Big 12 Tournament will be Koth's just second of her freshman year and first since CU's own Heather Farr Memorial in October.


"Lindsay has come close to qualifying a couple of times.  She's made some minor adjustments in her set up and she has a good, calm attitude."


The Buffs would have to win the tournament and receive and automatic bid in order to be playing in next month's NCAA Championships.


"We've had a lot of time to prepare, and we are.  We've had good practices and feel confident.  Being in the right frame of mind is important.  We need to go out there and have fun and play the best ball we can, not try too hard or put too much pressure on ourselves and continue to play one ball, one hole at a time.