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W-Golf Preps For Big 12 Championship

Apr 20, 2005

Big 12 Championship Notes

 

BOULDER-A veteran-laden University of Colorado women's golf team will tee off the postseason when the ninth annual Big 12 Championships, hosted by the University of Texas, will be decided this Friday through Sunday, April 22-24 on the par 72 6,323-yard UT Golf Club course in Austin, Texas.

 

The 54-hole championship format will consist of 18 holes played each Friday, Saturday and Sunday with 7 a.m. (MDT) tee times off #1 and #10 each day.  Texas broke Oklahoma State's string of three straight titles a year ago is the defending team champion and the Cowgirls' Annie Thurman was last year's medalist with a 7-under 137.  The Buffs will be paired with seventh-ranked OSU and Iowa State on Friday and will be the first group on the 10th tee.

 

The UT Golf Course opened in November of 2003 and this is the first conference championship to played on the Bechtol Russell designed championship course, "I've heard that it's a long, difficult course," said head coach Anne Kelly.  "The greens are firm and pretty undulated.  And like everything in Austin, everything on the course is burnt orange!"

 

Colorado's travel roster for the weekend includes Hannah Hoch, Maria Persson-Gulda, Allison Rella, Jess Ellis and Jessie Malcolm.  This will be Rella's fourth and final conference championship, Persson-Gulda's third, Hoch's second and Ellis and Malcolm's first.  It will be the Buffs' first tournament in almost three weeks, as they are coming off a fifth place finish at the BYU Dixie Classic in St. George, Utah.

 

"We've been getting caught up with school and work and working on our short game- the key to anyone playing well.  The course will be challenging for a short game.  We've also been doing the usual, working on different things for different people," Kelly explained.

 

The Big 12 remains one of the toughest women's golf leagues in the nation, with six teams ranked in the top 50 in the Golfweek.com and Golfstat.com rankings (only the SEC and Pac 10 have more). Oklahoma State is the conference's top-ranked team at seventh in one poll and eighth in the other.  Missouri (16/14), Texas (23/22) are also ranked in the top 25 while Baylor (33/29), Texas A&M (38/38) and Oklahoma (50/50) are ranked in the Top 50.  Individually, five Big 12 golfers, paced by OSU's Annie Thurman (fourth) and teammate Karin Skjodin (fifth) are ranked in the Top 50.

 

The Buffs, who finished 12th a year ago in College Station, Texas., have finished no higher than ninth in the annual championship. Going into the weekend they're carrying a team tournament average of 306.7 in 10 outings this year, the best in the program's 11-year history.  As a team they have finished as a tournament runner-up twice and in the top-six eight times.  They've shot better than 300 six times this season, including a school-record three round best 299-292-297-888 two tournaments ago in Tucson.

 

"We need to forget that this is the Big 12 Championships and treat this weekend like any other tournament.  We need to forget that Oklahoma State, Texas and Missouri are here and approach it like another west-region laden field," said Kelly on the team's approach.

 

Colorado's No. 1 player, Hoch has the team's low strokes per average (74.5), which is currently ranked third in the league, 122nd nationally.  Following a runner-up finish in the season opener, Hoch (who finished 16th a year ago in College Station) became just the second Buff to win a tournament, and first since 1998 when she claimed medalist honors in the Ron Moore Intercollegiate.  Four tournaments later she would become the first Buff to do it twice, picking up the win at the Miccosukee Championship in Miami. The Big 12 Player of the Month in February, with a three-round 215 at CU's Mountain View Collegiate, she bettered the 54-hole school record by a pair of shots.  Entering this week's championship she has six top-10 finishes and seven top-20.  If she maintains, or improves, her strokes per average by the end of the season she will hold her fourth school record, with lowest strokes per average first two years at CU.

 

            Persson-Gulda finished 52nd as a freshman in this tournament, and cut her finish in half a year ago to finish 25th.  As a junior she owns a 76.8 strokes per average which is 15th in the league. She has finished as CU's low score in a pair of tournaments and has three top-20 finishes.

 

            Rella joins former Buff Sarah Bellinger as just one of two Buffs that have played in four Big 12 championships, one of three to play for four league tournaments dating back to the Big Eight. Barring an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional Championships May 5-7 in Las Cruces, N.M., this weekend's tournament will be the last of her career.  Just one of two players to have every round this season count to the team's score, she finished a career best 29th here as a sophomore and will look to close out her career on a high note with a top-20 finish.  Her strokes per average (78.1) was 34th in the latest league stats.

 

            "Hannah has had a very solid season.  I know how determined she is and I'm confident that she'll have a very good tournament.  Maria's efforts haven't come together yet this season, but she's been working hard on her short game and is hoping that it clicks this weekend.  Ally has been a huge key to our improvement this year and this being her last Big 12, nothing short of a strong finish and ending on a good note will satisfy her," said Kelly on her upperclassmen.

 

            After two tournaments in the fall, Ellis has more than doubled her rounds in the spring in four tournaments.  She holds a career best 81.4 strokes per average with all but four rounds this spring contributing to the team score.  In her strongest season to date, Malcolm has shaved three strokes off her sophomore to junior average and will travel to Austin with an 80.5 strokes per average and in search of her first career top-20 finish, having come close in the last regular season tournament with a career best 27th.

 

            "If the Jess' can contribute one or two really good rounds, it will help us out a lot.  Ellis has earned her place on the travel squad and you just never know how a sophomore will react to a championship field.  Malcolm is coming off two strong tournaments and as a junior has enough good experiences for some solid rounds," added Kelly.

 

In the past, Kelly has felt that the Buffs would have to win this tournament and receive and automatic bid in order to be playing in next month's NCAA Championships.  This year, the pressure is off and she feels that finishing in the top half of the field would turn some heads of selection committee members.

 

"This tournament is kind of tricky because we're the only Big 12 school that is a west region team.  The Big 12 is so strong that if we have a good performance, beat a couple of really good teams and finish in the top half of the field, I really feel that the selection committee would take a strong look at that."