The University of New Mexico women’s golf team was overlooked in the preseason national poll. That omission may soon be remedied.
Playing in a field chock-full of nationally ranked teams – including reigning national champion Stanford – the Lobos finished in a tie for sixth out of 18 teams in the 37th Annual Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational at UNM Championship Golf Course on Tuesday.
“It’s always good when you’re right up there with the Pac-12 schools, Northwestern and Oklahoma State,” said UNM coach Jill Trujillo. “I’m going to wait and see what the rankings say as they happen through the year. The postseason is the most important thing, and you don’t want to peak right now.”
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With two holes to play, the Lobos were firmly seated in fourth place, but finished up a combined 7-over-par to drop two spots in the standings.
“We really battled back today,” Trujillo said. “We lost a few shots at the end because we had a freakish rainstorm come through and lots of wind, but all in all, I’m so proud of this team. They’re fighters who fight for each other. That’s what you want to see in athletics.”
Stanford brought a 12-stroke lead into the final round on the strength of a tournament-record 11-under-par in Monday’s opening round. Despite a ho-hum 2-under-par final round, the Cardinal easily coasted to victory, topping Branch/McGuire defending champion Northwestern by 10.
The Wildcats didn’t go home empty-handed. Sophomore Sarah Cho fired a 4-under par 69 to top the 103-player field. Cho, playing as an individual, trailed second-round leader Mariah Stackhouse of Stanford by four shots to start the day.
“I really didn’t expect that much because it was our first tournament and I didn’t compete over the summer,” Cho said. “I was playing with the other individuals, so I really didn’t know what was going on. I just tried to play my best, and my putting was a lot better.”
Stackhouse bogeyed three of her first five holes, but closed with four birdies to finish in second place, one shot behind Cho.
The Lobos’ Manon Mollé and Sol Lee finished in 12th and 18th place, respectively.
The shotgun start for the final round had Mollé starting on the sixth hole. She picked up where she left off at the end of Monday’s second round – and that was not a good thing.
Mollé bogeyed her first two holes before regrouping with a birdie on the par-3 8th hole.
“I didn’t find my swing (on the range today),” Mollé said. “I don’t know how I shot the 5-under in the first round.”
Mollé, indeed, found something – picking up four birdies after the inauspicious start.
“After I made the first birdie, I tried to make more and more birdies,” she said. “I tried my best and tried to get the ball close to the pin. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.”
Lee flirted with a top-10 individual finish for most of her final round, but was derailed with bogeys on her final two holes. An insertion into the Lobos’ starting five due to the illness of projected starter Darian Zachek, Lee’s even-par final round left her in red numbers at 1-under par.
“To be honest, I didn’t really have a thought process going in to the tournament, and I wasn’t nervous,” Lee said. “Coach Jill made us all feel really comfortable. She told us it’s a marathon, not a sprint – don’t play too aggressive or too defensive.”
UNM’s Ingrid Gutierrez placed 31st at 3-over par, Eva Saulnier was 45th at 7-over, and Alexandra Moisand finished 69th at 15-over.
The Lobos return to action Sunday in Greenville, S.C., for the Paladin Invitational hosted by Furman.