Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
UA WOMEN'S GOLF:
Razorbacks travel far for home shot
Maria Fassi tees off the first hole during the final round of the Augusta National Women's Amateur golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Saturday, April 6, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
FAYETTEVILLE -- If the No. 8 University of Arkansas women's golf team is to compete for the NCAA title on its home course, the Razorbacks will have to excel far away from home the next three days.
Arkansas is the No. 2 seed at the NCAA Cle Elum Regional, about 90 miles east of Seattle. Coach Shauna Taylor and her club, winners of the NCAA Austin Regional last year, need to finish in the top six in the 18-team field to advance to the championships at The Blessings, starting May 16.
ARKANSAS WOMEN’S GOLF
at NCAA Austin Regional
Where Cle Elum, Wash.
When Today through Wednesday
Course Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort, par 72, 6,306 yards
Format Three rounds of stroke play with top six teams from four regional sites advancing to NCAA Championships at The Blessings in Fayetteville on May 16-22
First tee Arkansas, Southern Cal and South Carolina, 10:30 a.m.
Top 10 seeds in order 1. Southern Cal, 2. Arkansas, 3. South Carolina, 4. Northwestern, 5. Washington, 6. Miami, Fla., 7. Oregon, 8. San Jose State, 9. Oregon State, 10. Old Dominion
Remainder of field Iowa State, San Diego State, Central Florida, Ohio State, Cal State-Sacramento, New Mexico State, Boston University, Southern Illinois
Projected Arkansas lineup (stroke average) Maria Fassi (71.40), Kaylee Benton (72.15), Dylan Kim (72.58), Brooke Matthews (73.00), Ximena Gonzalez (74.69)
The Razorbacks are making their 17th consecutive NCAA regional appearance and the 18th in program history. … Arkansas shot a school record 26-under par to win the NCAA Austin Regional last year. … The Razorbacks led the field with 57 birdies on the UT course and went 23 under on the par 5s, 13 strokes ahead of the next-best team in the field. … Arkansas senior Maria Fassi, a six-time winner last season, has 9 career titles, including the 2018 NCAA Austin Regional.
"What team wouldn't want to host the Super Bowl in their backyard?" Taylor said. "I think that's a perfect analogy.
"There's an excitement about that. Like any regional that we go to, we still have to go take care of business in Washington and, obviously, getting back here is going to be an amazing opportunity for us when we do."
Arkansas will tee off with No. 1 Southern California and No. 9 South Carolina at 10:30 a.m. Central.
The Razorbacks' season has taken a much different trajectory than last year, when they won seven events, including their first SEC title, then blasted all competitors in Austin by 11 strokes, led by the nation's No. 1 golfer Maria Fassi.
This year, Arkansas is still looking for its first event title.
Fassi, a senior, has heated up in recent weeks, winning SEC medalist honors two weeks ago in Birmingham, with senior teammate Kaylee Benton, a captain's pick last week for the Palmer Cup team, tying for second place.
That duo will be joined by senior Dylan Kim and freshmen Brooke Matthews of Rogers and Ximena Gonzalez in the Arkansas lineup on the 6,306-yard, par 72 Tumble Creek Club course just off the Cle Elum River.
"I think we're great," Taylor said of the Razorbacks' positioning despite not claiming a team title. "I love the locker room and their confidence in each other. We've played the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation this year, and I think that just has really battle-tested us and prepared us.
"I don't think we've by far played our best golf yet. As a coach, this is our favorite time of year, when you get to compete for championships."
The Razorbacks flew out of Northwest Arkansas on Friday, rested up Saturday and played their practice round on the unfamiliar course Sunday.
"I don't know a lot about it," Taylor said. "They hosted an NCAA regional a few years ago, so I was able to go back and get some of the data from that, like which holes played the hardest, just to give me a little bit of an idea of where the difficulty of the golf course lies before we get there."
The top six teams after three rounds of stroke play at each of four regionals will make up the field at The Blessings. The other regionals are being held in Opelika, Ala., Lansing, Mich., and Norman, Okla.
No. 1-ranked Southern California is the top seed at Cle Elum, followed by the Razorbacks, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 16 Northwestern, No. 19 Washington, No. 23 Miami, Fla., and No. 26 Oregon.
"We've played on similar grasses in Minnesota in the fall, sort of that Northerny style of grass," Taylor said. "I would expect that it's just a great championship test of golf or they wouldn't have a regional. It's not a home course for Washington, so I don't know that there's a ton of home-course advantage for them.
"We have to go there with a purpose to win a golf tournament and on a mission."
Sports on 05/06/2019
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