Wednesday, October 18

No. 1 golf comes up against first obstacle

All-American Stephanie Kono's injury creates opportunity for teammates to step up

A season that seemed to have so much promise for the UCLA women’s golf team has already hit its first bump in the road.

The top-ranked Bruins will be without their star sophomore Stephanie Kono as they open their 2010 spring season today to compete in the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes Golf Club.

Kono has been red-hot as of late, posting four-under through 11 rounds this fall, but a recent injury will cause her to cool down and take some time off to heal.

“(Kono’s absence is) going to make it pretty tough, but our team is overall very solid and we’ll be as prepared as we can be,” coach Carrie Forsyth said.

The void left by Kono creates a golden opportunity for a number of other players to step up and play a part in the team’s success this early in the season.

“We’ve been in the practice mode quite a while, now we need to get back in competitive mode.” Forsyth said.

Earning a chance to step up and contribute are junior Lalita Boonnoppornkul, who redshirted her sophomore season, and freshman Tiffany Lua. Senior Sydnee Michaels, junior Glory Yang and sophomore Brianna Do will round out the rest of the Bruins’ rotation.

A course that Forsyth calls “demanding,” the Palos Verdes Golf Club stretches 5,912 yards and will set up a formidable challenge. It is covered with slopes and hills that will put ball-striking at a premium, something UCLA has been practicing during the offseason, according to Forsyth.

The Bruins’ No. 1 ranking does come with a price as they now have a target on their back in a very tough and competitive Pac-10 conference. Of the 15 teams in the tournament, 10 are ranked in the top 20 in the nation. UCLA will have to face off against archrival No. 8 USC and other Pac-10 rivals, No. 3 Arizona State and No. 20 California.

The tough competition is something captain Sydnee Michaels thrives on.

“We’re going to have to bring it … but we’re a stacked team and we play for the Bruins, we’re proud of that,” the senior said.

Despite missing a First-Team All-American from the lineup, Forsyth is not worried at all.

“We’re about peaking in May,” Forsyth said.

Nevertheless, the Bruins will have their hands full today as they set in for the long haul of the 2010 season.

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