Monday May 20, 2013Gator Women Ready to Begin Play For Third Title at 2013 NCAA Women's Golf Championship
Only four rounds remain in the 2012-13 University of Florida women’s golf’s season, but those four rounds will be its most important of the year as it begins play tomorrow at the 2013 NCAA Championship at the UGA Golf Course (Par 72, 6,372 yards) in Athens, Ga. The Gators are looking to build off of its strong NCAA Central Regional showing after finishing in fourth place, its highest finish since 2008.
UF will be competing in its third-straight NCAA Championship and 24th finals in school history as it looks to add a third title to its national championship trophy case (1985, 1986). This season marked the first time since the 1996-98 years that Florida has seen the final tournament in back-to-back-to-back years. Much of Florida’s success in advancing to this year’s championship came from a few career-low rounds from its participating players in the central regional.
“We had a good team effort at regionals,” Florida head coach Emily Bastel said. “That’s what is exciting going into nationals because the final tournament takes a team effort. We’re excited about that and most of the girls have played this golf course before. We feel like we’ve been able to prepare very well and we’re ready to get going. This is the national championship and you know you can’t really have an off-day to contend. We’ll go up and get a good game plan and try to keep building off regionals.”
“I think it was great for them. To see what we’ve been doing, paying off from just a confidence-building standpoint and get those kinds of results. Obviously, Mia (Piccio) played a tremendous tournament minus about nine holes and she’s played well at Georgia before and it was huge for Anna (Young) to step up for us also. To be in the situation she was in to not having played since March and coming in and playing the way she did was great. Overall, it was just a team effort. Everyone had some shining moments and that bodes well for us next week.”
Senior Mia Piccio (Bacolod City, Philippines), who came in seventh-place overall in the regional tournament, carded two rounds of 69, which ties her career-low in an 18-hole round and was her lowest round since shooting the same score in the third round of the Liz Murphey Classic in 2011 of her sophomore season. Piccio has been consistent all year for the Gators as she has accumulated a 73.80 stroke average, good for third on the team and has had six top-20 finishes this year. The senior also has already had success at the UGA Golf Course as she won the 2013 Lady Bulldog Invitational back in January. What was scheduled as a 36-hole tournament, Piccio won the frost-shortened 18-hole tournament with a three-under, 69.
Piccio along with sophomore Camilla Hedberg (Sitges, Spain) will head up the top of the lineup for the Gators this week. Hedberg, who didn’t have the greatest of regional performances two weeks ago with a tie for 74th finish, her lowest of the year, will look to get things back on track at this week’s championship.
Hedberg still holds the top stroke average on the team (72.80) and has been at or near the top of the SEC rankings all year. Along with nine top-25 finishes this year, Hedberg has won three tournaments, individually, and will be trying to make a big impact in only her second NCAA Championship appearance. Last year, Hedberg was the highest finishing Gator (T33) as only a freshman after rounds of 76-69-74-77 for an eight-over (296).
Completing the Florida lineup this week will be the same players that saw action in this year’s central regional. Going at the No. 3 position will be junior Elcin Ulu (Istanbul, Turkey). Ulu has been one of the Gators’ strongest players this spring with three top-20 finishes (Florida Challenge, Gator Invite and NCAA Central Regional), including two rounds of 68, her lowest of her career. One of those rounds came at the NCAA Central Regional two weeks ago in the tournament’s first round, which had her name at the top of the leaderboard after the first day. Ulu wasn’t able to capitalize in the second round (78), but rebounded with a 73 to finish tied for 20th, the second-highest finishing Gator in the tournament. This will be Ulu’s first NCAA Championship appearance after two successful years in the NJCAA, where she finished in second in the NJCAA Championship as a sophomore.
At the four and five spots for UF this week is freshman Ursa Orehek (Domzale, Slovenia) and sophomore Anna Young (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada). Like their teammates, both Orehek and Young saw “best” scores at the NCAA Central Regional. Orehek carded her second 71 of the year after her first round. Unfortunately, a 78 in the second round set her back, but she also recovered well in her final round with a 73 to finish tied for 35th, her fourth top-40 finish this year. Orehek has had strong play as of late as both rounds of 71 have occurred in two of her last three tournaments.
As for Young, she had a slower start to her regional unlike her teammates with rounds of 78 and 75, but provided a very crucial final round 73, her lowest of the season, to help Florida secure its spot in the top-eight, which ultimately secured its bid to the NCAA Championship. Even though this will only be Young’s second tournament since March, she provides strong play at the No. 5 spot and depth, which is always needed during the college golf postseason. That depth is something that Bastel knew she would have coming in for her first head coaching season, but also wanted each player to improve as the season went on, which she thinks, they have.
“I had seen everyone’s talent last year, but that doesn’t always translate into certain types of scores when you go and tee it up, so I’m pleased with the way they’ve played this entire year,” Bastel said. “I think that everyone has improved, which is huge in this game. The better you get, the harder it is to improve and they are all great players. To keep inching up and becoming a better player is becoming more difficult, but they’ve done that this year through a lot of hard work in the gym and on the range. I’m really proud of them for that and excited for them. It’s an exciting time of year for us. They’re playing well, coming together as a team, which is sometimes difficult to do in such an individual sport.”
The first tee times of Tuesday’s first round are scheduled for 7:30 a.m., while Florida’s first player will tee off at 12:55 p.m. on the tenth hole of the UGA Golf Course. Live scores will be available on GolfStat.com. A full recap with complete results can be found on GatorZone.com following the completion of Tuesday’s round.
NCAA Championship Field (GolfStat National Rankings)
Oklahoma St. (15)
Mississippi St. (40)
Arizona St. (12)
UC Davis (17)
Michigan St. (25)
South Carolina (32)
San Jose St. (48)