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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA golf teams take to the road

    Young team opens up season
    The No. 13 Wildcats women’s golf team has a large task ahead of them, given that they have to travel to Tennessee for the opening tournament of the season. It tees off today at the Mason Rudolph Championships, a tournament hosted by Vanderbilt University in Franklin, Tenn.

    The course layout is a par-72, 6,217-yard layout and has been called, “”one of the Top-100 most women-friendly courses in North America,”” according to Golf for Women. The tournament is a 54-hole event with 18 holes to be played each day through Sunday.

    The Wildcats are a young team with high expectations after receiving a preseason ranking of 13 in the Golf World/NGCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The team is now faced with a starting-five that includes two freshmen, one sophomore, a junior with little experience and one senior.

    “”Our team unity this season is really incredible,”” said head coach Shelly Haywood. “”With the people we have this year, we’re all on the same page and everyone wants the same things.””

    After a disappointing finish to last year, where the team went up against harsh weather conditions in the NCAA Championships and finished 23rd overall, they are ready to bounce back with a new team that includes a serious youth movement.

    “”We all know that we could have played better and after talking with the team,”” Haywood said. “”They have said that they want to be pushed now.””

    The new youth movement led to qualifying rounds earlier this month to determine who would earn a spot in the line-up. After the results came in, senior Amanda Wilson, junior Brittany Benvenuto, sophomore Alejandra Llaneza and freshmen Margarita Ramos and Nikki Koller, all earned a spot to compete in the opening tournament.

    Before the season, Haywood said, “”We are definitely ready to compete, and even with a young team we have a lot of talent this year.””

    The Wildcats will have some big shoes to fill with the absence of departed senior Alison Walshe, who was recently named to the World Amateur Team and was invited to compete in Australia to represent the United States in October. Her leadership from last year cannot go without notice after she finished as the eighth-ranked player individually, led the team with eight top-10 finishes and scored in the 60s seven different times. Without their former star, the team will have to rely on one another to get the job done.

    “”Obviously she was a great leader, but this year we have something that we didn’t have last year, and that is that we are much deeper,”” Haywood said. “”We’re going to surprise some people this year. People aren’t giving us a lot of credit right now.””

    Wildcats ready to start off fresh
    After missing the postseason due to a late-season collapse by the Arizona men’s golf team, the Wildcats are ready to kick off a new season with a fresh start. With some new additions to both the team and the coaching staff, the squad feels confident that it can get back to where it wants to be.

    “”We have very high expectations,”” said assistant coach Andy Barnes. “”You have to have that kind of thinking every time you step onto the golf course.””

    The team will hop the short flight to Albuquerque, N.M., to compete in the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate tournament. The competition will feature 16 teams battling it out for 54 holes over a two-day span. The tournament will be held at the UNM Championship Course, a par-72, 7,403-yard layout, one that should prove to have an effect on the outcome due to its length.

    The competition includes Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio State, Pepperdine, Texas-El Paso, Utah and Wyoming.

    The Wildcats are using a starting five lineup that consists of a mix of both experience and youth. Senior Tyler Neal, the oldest player on the team, will lead the way. Sophomores Jonathan Khan, Tarquin MacManus and Roberto Galleti and the new addition of junior Brad Nicholson round out the starting five.

    Neal, MacManus and Galleti all bring experience to the table after a successful 2007-2008 season. Neal played 35 rounds and finished with one top-10 finish and one top-20. Galleti, as a freshman, competed in 29 rounds and finished with two top-10 finishes and two top-20. MacManus competed in 38 rounds with three top-10 finishes and four top-20.

    Khan brings some experience with him after appearing at the end of the season last year and competing in 18 rounds with one top-10 finish. Nicholson will get a chance to prove himself when he enters the tournament coming off of a season in which he played just nine rounds with one top-20 finish.

    Head coach Rick LaRose said before the season, “”We’ve got a lot of young guys on the team this year, but I think everyone is capable of achieving the same things.””

    There is a different feeling this year as the team heads to their first tournament, and that is the absence of a true leader. Every player seems to be capable of leading the team at any time during the season and that is something that the team takes pride in, LaRose said.

    As the team steps onto the course today, it will be looking to start the season on a positive note and try to forget what happened at the end of last year.

    “”If you don’t think you can win when you step onto that first tee box,”” Barnes said, “”then there’s no point in playing.””

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