Shaky opening round ends SDSU’s top-10 streak

by Rafael Avitabile, Staff Writer

The San Diego State women’s golf team took a hit last weekend at the PING Invitational hosted by Arizona State University, finishing in a tie for 12th place in the field of 15 teams at Karsten Golf Club in Tempe, Arizona. It was the first time that SDSU has finished outside the top 10 in any event all season, and it happened in their last tournament of the regular season.

Fourteen of the Aztecs’ 20 surplus strokes came during Friday’s opening round. Their 14-over 302 was the worst of the day by six shots and no Aztec shot lower than 74 in that round. SDSU rebounded nicely for rounds two and three by posting 3-over 291 twice, which moved it up three places on the leaderboard. The University of Arizona took home the team title with an impressive 3-under 861, and sophomore Monica Vaughn of ASU and senior Bertine Strauss from the University of Texas shared medalist honors at 6-under.

Although the first round slipped away, the Aztecs showed promise in the way they finished against a talent-loaded field that head coach Leslie Spalding called the “first or second-deepest field” they’ve faced this season.

“Aside from that one round, I thought we played pretty well.” Spalding said. “I know 12th place sounds bad, but it’s kind of like going to Yale and walking away with a C average.”

Spalding’s position is quite understandable when considering the fact that the tournament field featured seven of the nation’s top-10 programs, and six more teams who, like the Aztecs, were ranked inside Golfstat’s top 50. Excluding its mishaps on Friday, SDSU put together the 5th-best 36-hole weekend, and during those two days only one Aztec shot higher than 75.

The Aztecs’ lowest lady was freshman Mila Chaves whose 4-over-par 220 knotted her in a seven-way tie for 27th place. After posting a 5-over 77 in Friday’s first round, Chaves responded with an even-par 72 and 1-under 71 on Saturday and Sunday. Her Sunday performance, which was just one of two under-par rounds posted by the Aztecs all tournament, shot her upward on the leaderboard by 25 places.

Junior Emma Henrikson has been one of the more consistent golfers for SDSU this season, but was unable to escape the grips of the “Bogey Man” on her way to a 7-over 223. Her four birdies in the first round were offset by four bogeys and a double, followed by four birdies and six bogies in the second round, and her lone birdie in the finale was negated by two bogies and a double. After finishing in a six-way tie for 45th place, Henrikson has fallen to 64th in the rankings by Golfweek.

“I think they learned a lot at this last tournament,“ Spalding said. “It was a good warm up for the postseason and conference championship just to test your mental resolve and your gut.”

The Aztecs are now preparing for the Mountain West Tournament which kicks off next Monday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. Mission Hills is the site of the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration tournament, formerly known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which is one of the tour’s five major championships. SDSU will look to notch a conference title after finishing the conference championship in fifth and third place in the last two seasons.