Cats Take to Texas

March 23, 2010

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Teeing Off: Following a three-week layoff that included Spring Break, the Wildcats return to tournament play as they begin preparations for the postseason with a visit to Austin, Texas for the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational hosted by the University of Texas. Teams will tee off with a split-tee start on Friday and Saturday at 8:15 a.m. (CT) while Sunday will provide a shotgun start at 8:45 a.m. (CT)

About the Course: Arizona will tee up 54 holes of golf at the University of Texas Golf Club located between Lake Austin and Lake Travis in the Steiner Ranch area of the state capitol. The Bechtol Russell-designed course opened in 2003 and will measure out 6,255 yards of a par-72 layout.

The Field: The 16-team Longhorn Invitational will include a strong field that includes #2 UCLA, #12 Stanford, #20 Texas A&M, #22 New Mexico, #23 Vanderbilt and #25 TCU as well as UC Davis, Washington, Texas, Oregon, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Tulsa, Chattanooga and Oklahoma.

Tournament History: Purdue swept the honors last season at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, winning the event with a tournament-record total of 8-over 872 while Maria Hernandez earned medalist honors for the Boilermakers at 6-under par 210, another tournament record. Arizona finished 15th overall last season with Nikki Koller leading the team with a share of 26th place at 10-over par.

Cats in the Polls: Arizona has vaulted up the charts to #9 in the latest Golf World/NGCA Coaches Poll, released on March 10. The Wildcats are one spot higher in 8th place with a 72.19 rating in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, a purely statistical comparison of all NCAA teams. Sophomore Margarita Ramos is the highest rated player in the individual performance charts, checking in at 32nd position with a 71.78 rating. Fellow sophomore Isabelle Boineau and freshman Sherlyn Popelka are 37th and 38th, respectively, each boasting a rating of 71.97.

Last Time Out: Arizona grabbed another top five finish in its last event, taking 5th place at the inaugural Bruin Wave Invitational at the Robinson Ranch Golf Club in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Wildcats grabbed a first round lead with a 5-under par team score of 283, but slipped to 299 in the second round and ended up at 11-over par 875. Alejandra Llaneza and Nikki Koller each opened with rounds of 68 with Llaneza leading the team for the event at 2-over par. Koller and Popelka each finished at 6-over par while Boineau was one stroke better at 5-over par.

Fast Starts: In all six tournaments this season, the Wildcats have played some of their best golf, shooting over par in just one event and that coming under wet and windy conditions at the Wildcat Invitational. Arizona shot even on day one of two events after posting a season-opening total of 2-under 286 at the Mason Rudolph Championships before firing a 4-under par round of 284 at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown and 5-under par at the Bruin Wave Invitational. The Wildcats have averaged 286.8 in their first 18 holes of team play, an average of almost 2-under par.

Coming Along: The youth of the Arizona women's golf squad has showed it is on its way toward contending for championships the rest of the way as the team has nearly eclipsed its season totals from 2008-09. Last season, the Wildcats amassed three top 10 finishes and nine top 20 places while this year's team has already secured three top 10 results, including the win by Popelka, as well as seven top 20 finishes. Isabelle Boineau has grabbed four top 20 spots in six starts while Ramos has tallied two top 10 finishes and a top 20 slot. Popelka has a tally in each column while Llaneza has two top 20's and Koller has a top 20 as well.

Head Coach Shelly Haywood: Beginning her third season as the head coach and sixth season overall is Shelly Haywood, a former two-time Big West selection at New Mexico State. Haywood is a member of the LPGA, the USGA Women's Amateur Public Links Committee and an honorary member of the Arizona Golf Association's Board of Governors. Haywood was named the LPGA National Coach of the Year in October 2005. She has coached five all-Americans and ten all-Pac-10 performers since coming to the U of A.

Coaches Corner: 'We have moved up to #8 in the Golfstat Rankings and our team just keeps getting better every day. They all worked very hard over spring break, playing and practicing, and are ready to look for another team win. Last year, we didn't have Alejandra and Margarita at this event because they were playing an LPGA event in Mexico, but we are full strength this year and confidence is really high. I expect us to fight for another title again this week.'

Bruin Wave Breakdown: 'We came out strong last tournament with a -5 first round lead after the first day and I expect that pattern to continue. Our first round scores this year are averaging under par and I think they are ready to put together another good three rounds to win this event. It would be great for our confidence heading into the postseason. I expect every one of our girls to be able to put up some good numbers this week. It should be very exciting.'

By The Numbers: Nikki Koller is currently 4th in par 3 scoring with a 2.98 average while Isabelle Boineau and Alejandra Llaneza are tied for 15th at 3.03 in the latest round of NCAA statistics available on Boineau is also 15th in par 5 scoring at 4.84 and 21st in greens in regulation with a .712 average while Llaneza is tied for 21st at 4.86 in par 5 scoring. Popelka is 7th in putts on greens in regulation with 1.816 and Koller is tied for 12th at 1.833 while Popelka is also 16th in total short game with a .593 average. As a team, the Cats are 3rd in par 3 scoring (3.12) and par 5 scoring (4.95), 2nd in putts on greens in regulation (1.877) and 9th in total short game (.514).

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