The first step was the most important one at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational at the UNM Championship Course on Tuesday.
That step involved testing whether or not a course blasted by rain and hail Monday was even playable.
Thankfully for the Lobos and the other 15 women’s golf teams involved, a combination of hard work by the grounds crew and a lack of prior rain on the dry ground combined to leave the course perfectly playable.
“What an awesome maintenance staff we have,” UNM coach Jill Trujillo said. “They cleaned everything up. It was a good day out on the course.”
When all was said and done, Northwestern took home the team title, UNLV’s Dana Finkelstein snagged the individual crown and UNM learned a lot about the young squad it has this season.
The Wildcats shot an 8-under 868 to take the team title by eight shots over the second-place Rebels (876).
“I think it will be a huge boost to our confidence,” Northwestern coach Emily Fletcher said. “We love coming out here to Albuquerque. It’s a great golf course. It’s a golf course where you can make some birdies. That’s what we needed to do these last couple of days. I think it will really set the tone for us this fall.”
UC Davis (882), defending champion Pepperdine (883) and San Diego State (886) rounded out the top five.
The Lobos, minus their top player and featuring a lineup of just sophomores and freshmen, came in 15th with a 52-over 928.
Nonetheless, their coach was pleased with what she saw, for the most part.
“We played a little better, a few late bogeys,” Trujillo said. “Just some tweaking here and there we need to do. The fall is the time where you get to know your players a lot better and see exactly where they need to improve and what they need to work on. So I sure saw a lot of good stuff.”
Finkelstein, a UNLV senior, finished with a 9-under 210 to earn individual honors. She held off a late challenge by Northwestern’s Suc Tangkamolprasert, who shot a 6-under 213.
“It’s great to always start off with a win,” Finkelstein said. “It’s especially great that our team took second. It’s a great way to start the year.”
All the golfers were extremely pleased by the conditions after Monday’s storm.
“That was definitely the worst storm I’ve been in golf-wise,” Finkelstein said. “It was hailing and we were getting hit, which hurt pretty bad. It was a crazy storm.
“The course was great. You can’t even tell we had rivers flowing through (the 18th hole).”
UNM was led by freshman Ingrid Gutierrez, who tied for 39th with an 8-over 227. She was followed by Alexandra Moisand (229), Eva Saulnier (234), Katerina Jaeger (240) and Kalyn Thayer (253).
“I’m very happy my freshmen played well,” Trujillo said. “All in all, the future for Lobo women’s golf is going to be something else.”
The Lobos have three more tournaments this fall, starting with the Golfweek Conference Challenge at Red Sky Golf Course in Wolcott, Colo., on Sept. 22-24.