In a season that has taken UCLA women’s golf across the country from Louisiana to Hawaii, the Bruins got a chance to compete in the Pac-12 Championships just about 30 miles away from home in Valencia, Calif.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Valencia is also close to UCLA’s crosstown rival, No. 1 USC, who took advantage of that and cruised en route to a dominant victory in the tournament.
“USC had a really good three rounds,” said sophomore Erynne Lee. “There wasn’t one time where they faltered.”
The No. 10 Bruins finished 26 strokes behind their rivals, finishing +15 – good for third place and a spot in the NCAA regionals. UCLA never led, but the team was in second place for most of the three-day tournament. On the tournament’s final day, however, the team stumbled – posting +9 to fall behind Washington, which set a school record with its finish.
Coach Carrie Forsyth credited missed putts and poor decision-making as the main factors behind the Bruins’ poor performance. Lee also added that the pressure of playing at home also contributed to a bout of nerves. Lee, who was coming off very good showings in her past two tournaments, hit +5 during a rough second day.
Dependable senior Tiffany Lua stumbled on the third day, hitting +9.
“Today was sort of a mental meltdown for a few of the girls,” Forsyth said. “A little bit more resolve, a little bit more clarity could have really made a difference on some shots.”
The mistakes, both mental and physical, proved too much to overcome for the Bruins, despite the efforts of Lee and junior Ani Gulugian, who finished seventh and 11th, respectively.
Gulugian, who has recently implemented certain changes in her swing, felt that she played well, but that minor errors hampered her performance. This was a common theme among the Bruins, who were not at the top of their game.
Even if UCLA were on top of its game, it would have been difficult to catch up to USC. Led by freshman Annie Park (-7) and junior Sophia Popov (-5), who took the tournament’s top two spots, the Women of Troy shot out to a huge lead on the first day and faced little competition from there on out.
The victory is the Women of Troy’s fifth of the year and fourth in a tournament with the Bruins.
Both teams have been in the thick of it nearly every time they’ve met so far this year, perennially vying for first place.
UCLA will need to perform well in NCAA regional play, which begins May 9, if the Bruins are to get another shot at their rivals.
“I think we all know what we need to work on, with our game and with our minds,” Gulugian said. “We’re going to work really hard on that in practice and do what we have to do to come together as a team.”