No.3 USC Women's Golf Finishes Just Short At NCAA Championships

May 22, 2009

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Attempting to win its second straight NCAA title and third overall, the No. 3 USC women's golf team, holders of a one-streak lead entering the final round, fell short.

But despite the disappointment, the Trojans' third-place finish at the 2009 NCAA Championships on Friday (May 22) at the Caves Valley G.C. in Owings Mills, Md., is the program's fifth top 4 finish in the past seven years and ninth in the top 7 since 1998, all under 13th-year head coach Andrea Gaston.

Like her team, USC freshman Jennifer Song entered the final round with a lead, holding a two-stroke edge against the rest of the field for the individual title. But the 18th hole was Song's nemesis this week and she double bogeyed it to finish second overall at 2-over 290 (72-73-71-74), one stroke behind Purdue's Maria Hernandez. Song was 5-over on that hole for the tournament, 3-under for the other 68 holes.

But like her team as a whole, Song's second-place finish was a testament to the Trojans' recent excellent play at the NCAA Championships. Though she fell short of becoming Troy's fourth NCAA individual champion, she is USC's 12th Trojan to finish in the top 5 and the fourth in the top 2 since 2003.

As a team, USC finished at 39-over 1191 (301-295-294-301), nine strokes back of top-ranked and first-place Arizona State (1182-302-298-291-291). UCLA snuck in one spot ahead of USC at 38-over 1190 (296-293-304-297).

USC maintained an early lead as play started on Friday and was tied with the Sun Devils and held a seven-stroke lead over UCLA as the teams - playing together - neared the turn. But bogeys on the back 9 mounted as the Sun Devils were beginning to register birdies, turning the tide for good for ASU.

'We improved each day for the first three days and unfortunately today we just ran into some problems,' Gaston said. 'They still had a lot of patience. Did a lot things right. They had a strategy. The biggest thing was we didn't get the ball close enough to the holes enough times and needed to make some putts.

'With no seniors and the whole team back, we are excited with what we have. They will learn more from a loss like this through the pain of a falling short.

'The team played really well all week and I think they were truly inspiring to watch. They performed extremely well on a very hard course. To have the opportunity to be in contention on the final round was big, but it didn't quite work out. And all credit to ASU. They played great. All five of their girls were on. They've been a deep team all year.'

Song's second-place finish matched her result at the NCAA Championships West Region and marked her fourth top 2 outing in as many events and the six top 3 outing this year.

In addition to Song, sophomore Lizette Salas finished tied for 16th at 10-over 298 (74-74-75-75) and completed a season in which she did not finish outside the top 18 in any event. Junior Belen Mozo tied for 21st at 11-over 299 (78-72-73-76). She was 2-over on both the front and back 9 but wasn't able to knock down her first birdie until the tough 17th hole.

Junior Caroline Kim was also 4-over in the final round and tied for 57th at 20-over 308 (77-76-79-76). Though she was 4-over going out, she was USC's top finisher on the back 9 at par. Freshman Inah Park tied for 75th at 24-over 312 (79-79-75-79). She was only 2-over on the back 9, but couldn't hold onto the pace.

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