Friday, May 24

Grass not getting greener


Tied for 13th place, women's golf stumbles as it enters the final round behind first-place Duke

NEW YORK “”mdash; Maybe it’s the Scarlet Course’s
recently renovated greens, which are hard as rocks and as
undulating as a turtle’s shell.

Maybe it’s the course’s first cut of rough, as
unforgiving as the Bruins have played in all season and, at least
from their perspective, infringing on more and more of the tight
fairways.

Maybe it was the expectation of living up to a No. 2 ranking and
claiming UCLA’s 100th national title.

The Bruins don’t know the reason why they’re tied
for 13th place and an insurmountable 34 shots behind first-place
Duke at the NCAA Championship at Ohio State, and UCLA certainly
didn’t come any closer to finding it during Thursday’s
third round.

In their last opportunity to make something of the
season’s final tournament, the Bruins shot a collective
15-over par, are now closer to the bottom of the leaderboard than
the top, and ensured that today’s final round will remain
largely irrelevant with respect to the 2006 season.

“I don’t have any answers,” UCLA coach Carrie
Forsyth said. “For whatever reason this week, we don’t
look solid. We don’t look sharp. And I don’t know
why.

“A lot of little things are going wrong, and it’s
adding up to a lot.”

The Bruins weren’t exactly the healthiest or most
experienced team coming into the NCAA Championships.

This week’s championship tournament only marked Hannah
Jun’s second event back since recovering from spinal cord
injuries sustained as a passenger in a car accident Dec. 10,
2005.

Amid a grueling course and some adverse weather, the junior has
struggled, posting rounds of 76, 78 and 79 to put her in a tie for
77th place at 17-over par after three rounds.

This week’s championship tournament was also the first
opportunity for freshmen Jane Park and Tiffany Joh, both ranked
among the top seven golfers in the country, to experience a
championship event on a collegiate level.

Each has struggled mightily, as Joh and Park are tied for 50th
and 77th, respectively.

In fact, the only Bruin to survive the Scarlet Course’s
wrath this week has been sophomore Amie Cochran, who is poised for
her second consecutive top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships.

Cochran, the only Bruin this week to avoid a double bogey or
worse through three rounds, carded her second consecutive 1-under
par 71 on Thursday and is 4-over par and tied for ninth heading
into tomorrow’s final round.

“She’s hit it really well the last two
rounds,” Forsyth said. “Everyone else hasn’t hit
the ball well. We’re missing fairways, the rough is deep, and
the chances are you’re going to miss the green, and then
you’re fighting to get up-and-down.

“Basically if you’re not on this week, you’re
not going to win,” Forsyth said. “And we certainly have
not been on.”

UCLA’s playing partners during the first two rounds, the
Duke Blue Devils, have been on. After a shaky first round, No. 1
Duke came back with collective rounds of 4-over par and 1-under par
to grab a dominating yet not invincible 13-shot lead heading into
today’s final round.

The Blue Devils will be seeking their second consecutive NCAA
Championships victory today, and from Forsyth’s perspective,
it will be difficult for any other team to be stepping to the
trophy podium this afternoon.

“What they shot today was a phenomenal score,”
Forsyth said. “I’m extremely impressed.

“I wanted us to shoot around even par, and thought we
would have moved forward. Instead Duke leapfrogged the entire
field.”

The Bruins haven’t thrown in the towel yet, though they
may be clutching for it. After Wednesday’s disappointing
second round, Forsyth brought her team back to the hotel to relax
and take their minds off of what was at that point a disappointing
tournament.

After Thursday’s round, UCLA was actually greeted with
some good news.

The Bruins sank low enough on the leaderboard to guarantee
themselves a morning tee time today, when the conditions are
expected to be much more benevolent than in the afternoon.

But at the start of the week, teeing off in the morning of the
final round wasn’t where UCLA envisioned it would be.

“Is it frustrating? A little,” Forsyth said.
“I know they’re giving their best. They really are
trying hard. But it’s disappointing. Nothing is coming
together. Some of that is the nature of our sport.

“We’ll be back next year,” said Forsyth,
before making sure to point out, “but this year is not even
over yet.”

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