Despite the gloom that hung thickly over Stanford University Golf Course, the UCLA women’s golf team shone brilliantly on the greens, putting into first place after narrowly inching a lead from No. 1 Alabama.
“We’ve done a lot of work on improving their green-reading skills, and that made a huge difference this week,” said Carrie Forsyth, the coach of the No. 4 Bruins.
Forsyth also remarked on how proud she was of her players for maintaining their poise and composure under the difficult weather.
Play ceased at 10:40 a.m. because of the rain, but the two-hour break gave the Bruins enough time to refocus and increase their lead over Alabama from a precarious one-stroke advantage to finish with an 11-stroke edge in the end.
UCLA finished with a total score of 856 (+4) while No. 2 USC finished in third.
Four of the five Bruin golfers placed in the top 25, with two of them finishing in the top 10: junior All-American Stephanie Kono at second and senior Glory Yang at sixth.
Freshman Ani Gulugian came in at 13th, sophomore Tiffany Lua at 16th and junior Brianna Do at 50th. USC’s Sophia Popov won the tournament individually.
Kono, a two time All-American and one of the best players on the team, was one shot short of tying for first; a crucial bogie on the 18th hole during the third round cinched her second-place finish.
“I didn’t hit the ball that great, but I managed to hold it together with my putting, and I think that’s the biggest reason why I scored well,” Kono said.
When asked to describe their win, Forsyth laughed good-humoredly and replied that it was “well-earned.”
“They played better than everybody else and really fought for it,” Forsyth said.
What eased the challenge of winning the tournament was the presence of consistent putting, an ability that Forsyth admits that the team had been struggling with.
“We’re notoriously not the best putters, and I feel like if we can putt, we’ll be winning more than a couple events this year,” Forsyth said.
An excellent case study would be Gulugian whose excellent putting netted her a top-15 finish, despite having never played at the Stanford course before.
UCLA’s well-earned first-place finish marks the end of the fall season, with an interim break that runs until February, when the team will start again with the Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes.
Until then, the team plans to continue to improve its putting ability, a key component to contending for the national championship. The players also plan to spend their free time bonding as a team.
“We’re a very new team, and we have two new members … so team bonding is very important,” Yang said.