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Following storm-induced format change, UCLA women’s golf falls in semifinals

UCLA women’s golf junior Caroline Canales watches the course. (Courtesy of Jesus Ramirez/UCLA Athletics)

By Sabrina Messiha

Feb. 6, 2024 3:52 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 6 at 11:33 p.m.

The Bruins were forced to adapt to an overnight format change at their second tournament of 2024.

The Therese Hession Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California, was shifted to a match play event beginning Saturday morning. Originally, No. 4 UCLA women’s golf planned to compete Sunday to Tuesday in a 54-hole stroke play event.

The Bruins’ weekend consisted of a win against Baylor, but a loss to both Florida and USC, with USC going to a tiebreaker round.

As a result of the storms forecasted to cover Southern California early in the week, the tournament arrangement was altered Friday night, set to begin early the next morning. This meant that time allotted for teams to become accustomed to the course was cut short.

“We were supposed to also have a practice round on Saturday,” said junior Caroline Canales. “I know for a couple of my teammates that haven’t played Palos Verdes, it was definitely surprising.”

With limited practice times, coach Alicia Um Holmes said she and assistant coach Erynne Yoo were proactive in helping team members adjust.

“Erynne and I were trying to hop around to different holes that we knew were challenging,” Um Holmes said. “Helping them with clubbing off the tee or approaching shots into tricky greens that have a lot of slopes.”

The already-shifted weekend was cut short when intense storms stopped play Sunday evening, canceling the final round.

To kick off its shortened weekend, UCLA squared off against Baylor in five single shotgun start matches. The two teams had only competed against each other once, with the Bruins defeating the Bears at the Battle at the Beach in the 2017-2018 season.

In a 4-1 victory against Baylor, all UCLA players but junior Tiffany Le, who lost 3-and-2 to Baylor’s Sera Hasegawa, came out on top. Senior Kate Villegas led her team with a 5-and-4 victory in her first round.

Villegas said her past experience in match play events helped her adjust to the changed schedule.

“At first it was a bit of a bummer – I love stroke play – but match play is something that I really enjoy,” Villegas said. “I’ve had a lot of success in match play, so I was definitely really confident and excited.”

UCLA advanced to the quarterfinal round to play No. 10 Florida. Le and Canales were able to clinch their matchup wins. But when the event was cut short due to darkness, the three remaining Bruin golfers were unable to prevail, losing to the Gators 3-2 and ending their Saturday play.

“The momentum can change super quickly,” Canales said. “I know Alessia (redshirt junior Alessia Nobilio) was coming back, … but we’ll never know, and I don’t think we’re going to spend too much time dwelling on it.”

In its third and final round Sunday morning, UCLA took on rival No. 5 USC. Because of the unexpected setup of the weekend, the rivalry match came as a surprise to both teams.

In their last matchup in October, the Bruins took home the victory. But this time, the Trojans came out on top after winning in a tiebreaker round. Both Villegas and Le defeated their USC opponents, with junior Natalie Vo tying prior to the tiebreaker round.

“It was very windy, and we dealt with some rain at the end of our round, but everybody had to deal with that,” Um Holmes said. “We lucked out that we were able to get in almost three rounds of golf.”

Junior Zoe Antoinette Campos, who competed as an individual for the Bruins, defeated each of her three opponents from No. 20 Pepperdine, No. 15 Clemson and Ohio State, winning the individual title.

The Bruins will resume competition at the Nanea Pac-12 Preview in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in two weeks.

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