Sept. 18, 2008
What: Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational
Where: UNM Championship Course
Thursday leaders: Pepperdine 292, New Mexico 294, Wyoming 297
Individual leaders: Jayvie Agojo, Pepperdine, 71; Kasey Claussen, CSU, 71; Jodi Ewart, UNM, 72; Nicole Vandermade, Texas, 72.
Friday: Tee times 8 a.m. to 9:52 a.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. shotgun start
Teams: Lobos, BYU, Campbell, Colorado, Colorado State, Hawaii, Indiana, New Mexico State, Pepperdine, San Diego State, TCU, Texas, UC-Davis, UNLV, UTEP, Wyoming.
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There is really two tournaments in one for the University of New Mexico Lobos at the UNM Championship Course. The solution to winning the lesser tournament is to simply win the main tournament = the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational.
"I made a point to have all our conference teams here so we could have a head-to-head before our conference tournament," said Lobos coach Jill Trujillo. "It's always good to see how everyone is doing. That helps with our preparation."
Said Lobos junior Jody Ewart: "Obviously, the first goal is to win (the McGuire) and secondary is to finish ahead of every team in the conference."
Beating the Mountain West Conference teams = Brigham Young, Colorado State, San Diego State, TCU, Wyoming, UNLV = might be the easier of the two tasks for UNM.
The Lobos, in the No. 2 spot after the McGuire's first 18 holes on Thursday, lead the other six MWC teams. But UNM trails Pepperdine by two shots going into Friday's second round of the 54-hole tournament that concludes Saturday.
Pepperdine, winner of the McGuire in 2005, carries the top ranking into the tourney at No. 8. UNM is No. 19. Pepperdine's Jayvie Agojo shares the tourney lead with Colorado State's Kasey Claussen at 2-under par 71. The Lobos were paced in the first round by Ewart, the two-time MWC Player of The Year, who fired a 1-under 72 on Thursday. Ewart is tied for third place with Texas' Nicole Vandermade and Indiana's Kellye Belcher. The Lobos also got a solid round from senior Morgan Grantham, who shot an even-par 73.
"I liked the way I was hitting the ball," Grantham said of her round that featured four birdies and four bogeys. "I hit every fairway and missed only one green, so that was pretty solid. My putting was only decent. It took me a while to get used to the speed of the greens. They were faster than (Wednesday). But I came close on a couple of putts.
"I don't think I can hit the ball any better. I just need to get my putting down."
Trujillo said her Lobos are in good shape on the scoreboard going into the second round especially since UNM did not get off to a great start on Thursday.
"We were a litte rusty at first," said Trujillo. "It took a while for the wheels to start rolling, but we brought it back. I think maybe for the first tournament we were maybe a little controlling, maybe a little nervous, but we got it going the second nine.
"We're definitely not out of it. You don't win a tournament on a first round. The birdies weren't falling today, but we have a lot of birdies out there. There were a few first-round jitters. We'll come around. We play this course day-in and day-out and we know what kind of scores we can shoot on it and we want to shoot those scores."
Three Lobos who rallied on the back nine were Grantham, Backstedt and Hellbom. Grantham shot a 1-over par on the front and a 1-under on the back nine. Hellbom was 4-over par on the front nine and even par on the back nine. Backstedt was 2-over par on the front and 1-under on the final nine holes.
Trujillo said the Lobos are "pumped" to defend their home turf and win the only tournament they will host during the 2008-09 season.
"Yeah, golfers get pumped up," said Grantham. "We don't huddle up and jump all around and stuff, but we get excited. After winning conference, we feel like we should win this one."
The Lobos think they should win because they have a talented team. But there also is the home-course advantage.
"I think playing here is a big advantage for us," said Grantham. "It's especially tough on freshmen on other teams because the greens are hard to read and you have to know where to hit the ball in the fairway. We know all that stuff."
Ewart was the hottest Lobo on the front nine carding a 2-under par 35. She was 1-over on the back side.
"I started thinking this was going to be a really good round," she said. "I was sticking it really close all day and just shaving the hole (on putts.) At this level, you can't let yourself get frustrated. You have to forget about a hole and move on."
The McGuire continues Friday with the first tee time set for 8 a.m. Saturday's final round will feature an 8 a.m. shotgun start.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner.