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UCLA women’s golf swings into 2024 spring season with Match in the Desert

Junior Natalie Vo finishes a swing. (Courtesy of Ross Turteltaub/UCLA Athletics)

By Sabrina Messiha

Jan. 21, 2024 1:21 p.m.

The Bruins will travel to the Grand Canyon State in search of gold for the first time since winter break.

No. 4 UCLA women’s golf will head to Gold Canyon, Arizona, to compete in the Match in the Desert tournament Monday. Its performance at the tournament in 2023 leaves a chance to replicate its first-place finish, upsetting then-higher-ranked Arizona and Arizona State. This season, UCLA is ranked above No. 21 Arizona State and No. 26 Arizona, who are its Pac-12 counterparts in this tournament.

“It’s always nice to be ranked really well, but at the end of the day, you have to go out there and prove yourself each week,” said coach Alicia Um Holmes. “At the end of the day, our main goal is to win the national championship, and we don’t want to rest on our laurels.”

Despite their high ranking, the Bruins will be without one of their top players in Arizona.

Junior Caroline Canales finished strong at Match in the Desert last year, picking up the first individual win of her career. She won’t be playing this weekend, Um Holmes said.

“She just wanted to take it easy. Her back was bothering her just a little bit,” Um Holmes said. “We thought it was better to get her some good rest and get her ready for the next big event.”

Monday’s starting lineup includes senior Kate Villegas, junior Zoe Antoinette Campos, junior Tiffany Le, redshirt junior Alessia Nobilio and junior Natalie Vo.

This tournament will be the Bruins’ first in three months after concluding their fall season with a fifth-place ranking at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Their performance in the tournament improved their ranking three spots to No. 4 to kick off the spring segment of their season.

The Stanford Intercollegiate was Le’s first tournament play as a Bruin and her only stroke event of the fall season. She was UCLA’s top finisher alongside Campos, tying for 14th overall.

“It boosted my confidence a little to see what I have in store and to show what I have for this upcoming season,” Le said.

Continuing its uphill spur, UCLA’s progress continued over break. The team has been sharpening its game in preparation for the months ahead, Le added.

“Over the break, I spent a lot of hours on the range, pretty much doing the same routine every day,” Le said. “Going to the range, hitting for about three hours, working out, practicing short game and then repeating that every day.”

Vo will make her Bruin debut this weekend. Vo, a Colorado transfer, had a 75.98 scoring average in 62 career rounds in Boulder.

Over the break, Vo played in a tournament in Arizona and is keeping a competitive mindset for the upcoming months.

“It’s definitely been very different coming from Colorado, but I’ve really been thankful that the girls took me in with open arms,” Vo said. “I’m really happy to be here.”

UCLA will tee off its spring season Monday.

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Sabrina Messiha
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