Cats Trek to Tempe

April 8, 2010

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Teeing Off: Arizona will tee it up in the final regular season tournament for 2009-10 this weekend as the Wildcats make the short drive across I-10 to take part in the PING/ASU Invitational in Tempe on April 9-11. The Cats will tee off at 8:00 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday before play bumps up one half our on Sunday morning with a 7:30 a.m. start time.

About the Course: The Wildcats will ply their trade at the Karsten Golf Course in Tempe for this weekend's event. The course is laid out over 6,230 yards.

The Field: A strong 17-team field hosted by #3-ranked Arizona State will also include top-ranked UCLA, #5 Alabama, #6 USC, #8 Purdue, #9 Pepperdine, #13 Stanford, #14 California, #21 Denver, #24 New Mexico, #26 Oklahoma State, #31 Texas, #36 Washington, #42 San Jose State, #49 Tulsa and #110 Washington State.

Tournament History: Maria Hernandez of Purdue won the 2009 PING/ASU Invitational with a 3-under par total of 211 over 54 holes of play. Oklahoma State captured the team title by tallying 881 for a winning score of 17-over par. Alejandra Llaneza led the way for Arizona last season in this event, shooting an even par total of 216 that included a season-best round of 67 in the second round to finish in 6th place overall. The Wildcats took 7th place with a team total of 898. Arizona has won the PING/ASU Invitational twice, the last title coming in the 2000 season. Jenna Daniels won the individual crown that year, the second of four players to earn medalist honors.

Cats in the Polls: Arizona continues its climb up the rankings after moving up to #8 in the latest Golf World/NGCA Coaches Poll, released on March 29. The Wildcats are also 8th 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 29th position with a 71.85 rating. Freshman Sherlyn Popelka is not far behind in 33rd at 71.95 while sophomore Isabelle Boineau is one spot behind her first-year teammate at 72.02.

Last Time Out: For the 4th-straight tournament and 5th time in 7 events this season, Arizona earned a top five finish after claiming second place at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational in Austin, Tex. The Wildcats finished just six shots behind top-ranked UCLA as four different players posted top 10 finishes. Llaneza and Popelka each tied for 8th at 6-over par 222 while Boineau and Ramos were each 7-over 223 to share 10th place overall. Nikki Koller rounded out the five-person team in a tie for 45th place while Ashley Malaska competed as an individual entry and finished in 89th position.

Familiar Surroundings: Not only is the Karsten Golf Course in Tempe geographically near to the U of A campus, the course will also be familiar for the veteran Wildcats as they will be making their third appearance on the golf course in the last calendar year. After competing in this same event last season, the Wildcats returned to Tempe one month later for the NCAA West Regional Tournament. Arizona took 7th place in both events, the latter vaulting the team into the field for the NCAA Championships.

Fast Starts: In all seven tournaments this season, the Wildcats have played some of their best golf, shooting over par in just two events. 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 288.6 in their first 18 holes of team play, an average of just over even par.

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.

By The Numbers: Arizona has a number of players ranking among the top in the country in a number of statistical categories. Alejandra Llaneza leads the way for the team in 7th place in par 3 scoring at 3.01 while Isabelle Boineau is tied for 17th at 3.04 and Nikki Koller is 19th at 3.04. Sherlyn Popelka is tied for 13th in par 5 scoring at 4.85 with Boineau sitting 21st in greens in regulation at .705 and Margarita Ramos three spots behind her at .702. Popelka is also 5th in putts on greens in regulation at 1.819 while Llaneza is 25th in total short game at .562. As a team, the Wildcats are 3rd in par 3 scoring at 3.12 and in par 5 scoring at 4.96, 8th in fairways hit at .788, 10th in greens in regulation at .649, 4th in putts on greens in regulation at 1.886 and 7th in total short game at .507.

Postseason Plans: The Wildcats will begin postseason tournament play on April 19 at the 2010 Pac-10 Championships, hosted by the University of Oregon at the Eugene Country Club. With its current national standing, the Cats are also a near lock to be invited to play in one of the NCAA Regional events. Should the Wildcats get to stay on the left side of the country and get slotted into the West regional, the Stanford Golf Course will be the site of that event. East Carolina is the host of the East Regional while Indiana will play host to the Midwest Regional. The top eight teams in each event receive invitations to the 2010 NCAA Championships to be staged this season at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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