There were many questions that had yet to be answered during the beginning of the season for the UC Irvine women’s golf team.
How would the highly talented but young team respond to a new head coach? Would the girls be able to rebound from a disappointing finish at the NCAA Regional?
It turns out there wasn’t much to worry about.
After finishing in fifth place in the West Regional last week, the Anteaters advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second time in the program’s sixth year history.
They will now turn their attention to the Championships, which are set to take place from May 22 to 25 at the LPGA International Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Duke University is the favorite to win the title but UCI Head Coach Julie Brooks is confident the team has the ability to put together a great tournament.
‘I am expecting the team to finish in the top 10 but this could be a magical week where the girls peak and we try to repeat what the [men’s] volleyball team did,’ Brooks said, alluding to the volleyball team’s NCAA Championship.
The Anteaters left for Florida on Saturday, May 19 and will have two practice rounds before the tournament begins to get learn the different holes and figure out the set up of each green.
Brooks said that the course in Florida is ‘less funky’ than the course the team had to play during the NCAA Regional in Utah.
‘I think on a course like this, they might pull it off,’ Brooks said after being asked about the team’s chances of winning the title. ‘We just have to go out there and play our game and get to par as much as possible.’
UCI will use juniors Selanee Henderson, Kim Lorenzana, Jane Chin and freshmen Patty Chawalitmetha and Henna Cho during the competition.
The last appearance UCI made in the NCAA Championships was only two years ago in 2005, and the team finished in 18th place.
If the Anteaters are going to finish in the top 10 or have a chance to win, Brooks said the team must be strong in its putting game.
‘For the most part our driving and iron play has been pretty good all season. The key is going to be trying to avoid three putting and getting up and down when we hit the greens.’
The Anteaters have been playing consistent golf all season, finishing in the top five in nine of the 10 tournaments they have played this season. They also won the Anteater Invitational in March and captured the Big West Championships in April.
Brooks continued to repeat her sentiment that the best has yet to come from her team, stating, ‘I am pretty confident in the girls and I don’t think we have seen the lowest scores from them.’
In only her first season Brooks has the Anteaters back to the Championships and was promptly named Big West Coach of the Year.
‘It’s been a great season and first year for me,’ Brooks said. ‘The girls are terrific and I couldn’t ask for anything better on a personal level or playing level as well. It’s been one of those dream seasons.’
The trip is not all about the tournament, however, and Brooks acknowledged that the girls are likely to make a quick stop at Disney World after the competition is completed.
Right now, though, the team’s focus is on the golf course.
‘Our preparation is going well. We are practicing our short game and getting ready for the not-super-tough but still challenging Florida course. We are just trying to rest and get ready for an exciting week,’ Brooks said.
The Anteaters will look to finish the dream season with a strong showing at the NCAA Championships when the tournament begins on Tuesday, May 22.