Waves Repeat as Golfweek Conference Challenge Champs; Na is Medalist
Sept. 25, 2013
WOLCOTT, Colo. - Pepperdine senior Grace Na won her fifth career college title and the Waves' women's golf team rolled to a 36-stroke victory at the Golfweek Conference Challenge on Wednesday.
It's quite a start to the 2013-14 campaign for the Waves, who won the season-opening Dick McGuire Invitational in New Mexico on Saturday, then immediately traveled to Colorado for this event. Pepperdine has been in the lead after all six of its rounds this season.
The Waves had their best round of the three on Wednesday, a 4-under 284 that gave them a three-day total of a 5-over 869 (289-296-284) at the par-72 Red Sky Golf Club. UC Davis (905) and TCU (910) finished a distant second and third, respectively.
"I couldn't be happier," Pepperdine Coach Laurie Gibbs said. "It's been a great week. Everyone played with confidence. We traveled well and came together as a group. All that positive energy and excitement and good attitudes let everything come to fruition."
Pepperdine, ranked 15th by Golfweek, won the publication's event for the third time in its five-year history. The Waves earned their second straight title and also captured the inaugural tournament in 2009.
"I think experience played a big role," Gibbs said. "We've got a lot of upperclassmen and two seniors in the lineup. The course is one where if you know where to hit it, you can get it to the hole, but if you miss that spot, it's tough to stay on the green. This is the fourth time I've coached at this course, and our players know the course well."
It's the third time that the Waves have won their first two events of the fall season, following 2005 and 2009. The last time it happened, Pepperdine also won the McGuire and Golfweek events, though in reverse order.
It was a two-person race for medalist honors between Na (Alameda, Calif./Alameda HS) and sophomore Marissa Chow (Honolulu, Hawaii/Iolani HS), and Na was able to tame the treacherous back nine for a two-shot victory. Thanks to a final-round 4-under 68 - the best round of the entire tournament - Na ended up with a 6-under 210 (71-71-68).
"I was happy with the way I played," Na said. "I had a lot of fun out there. Being a senior, I'm trying to embrace every moment. It's a tough course and I tried to hang in there. We all talked about the back nine and how we had given some shots back. The wind picked up, there were some tough holes, but we had to stay patient and keep our focus."
Na played the first nine holes at 2-under, then posted four birdies and just two bogeys on the back nine. Her previous victories came at the 2011 and 2013 West Coast Conference Championships, the 2011 Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown and the 2013 `Anuenue Spring Break Classic.
"We've been working hard and it was good to see the results," Na said. "It went really well for us the last two tournaments. We're going to keep working hard and try to keep this going at our next events."
Chow wound up in second place with a 4-under 212 (71-70-71). She led Na by a stroke heading into the final round and was in great shape with five birdies on her first eight holes on Wednesday. Though she added two more birdies on the back nine, Chow also ran into some trouble and was overtaken by Na.
Na and Chow each finished in the top five at both season-opening tournaments.
"It's so great how Grace is continuing to play as well as she did in the spring and summer," Gibbs said. "She hit the ball to the right spots and gave herself the opportunity to make birdies. Grace putted very well. Marissa is also playing so consistently. She plays simple, she's striking the ball well and her short game has been amazing."
Junior Somin Lee (Denver, Colo./Overland HS) also had a great start to her round, which allowed her to jump up into a tie for eighth place at 225 (76-77-72). Lee's round began with an eagle on the par-5 second hole and a birdie on the third hole. She was 4-under after eight holes before eventually settling for an even-par round.
Junior Alina Ching (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) tied for 14th place at 227 (71-78-78) and senior Liv Cheng (Auckland, New Zealand) tied for 32nd at 233 (81-79-73). Ching had three birdies on Wednesday while Cheng had 15 pars and one birdie.
"Liv, Alina and Somin all did well this week," Gibbs said. "And even if one of them didn't have a good day, everybody else picked up the slack. Last year we didn't always have that happen. This year I think it will. They're going to push each other."
After this golf-filled week, the Waves take a short break until October 5-7, when they play in Oklahoma's Schooner Fall Classic.
Team Scores: 1. Pepperdine 289-296-284=869; 2. UC Davis 304-303-298=905; 3. TCU 301-317-292=910; T4. Denver 303-315-299=917; T4. East Tennessee State 305-304-308=917; T6. Harvard 312-309-304=925; T6. SMU 313-310-302=925; 8. Florida International 308-315-304=927; 9. San Jose State 320-312-302=934; 10. Morehead State 322-321-305=948; 11. Central Arkansas 315-320-315=950; 12. Arkansas-Little Rock 328-313-313=954; 13. Ball State 318-324-315=957; 14. Northern Arizona 335-329-307=971; 15. Illinois State 330-322-326=978; 16. Indiana 333-323-323=979; 17. James Madison 328-318-339=985; 18. Boston College 318-339-333=990.
Individual Leaders: 1. Grace Na (Pepperdine) 71-71-68=210; 2. Marissa Chow (Pepperdine) 71-70-71=212; 3. Sanna Nuutinen (TCU) 72-74-71=217; 4. Paige Lee (UC Davis) 75-72-74=221; 5. Meghan MacLaren (Florida International) 72-77-73=222.