Sept. 19, 2008
What: Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational
Where: UNM Championship Course
Friday leaders: New Mexico 585, Pepperdine 585, UC Davis 594
Individual leaders: Jodi Ewart, UNM, 141; Jayvie Agojo, Pepperdine, 142.
Saturday: 8 a.m. shotgun start (M.D.T.)
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
It was "moving day" in the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational and Lobo coach Jill Trujillo said her Lobos moved in the right direction = up.
"The second day in a golf tournament is moving day and as Lobos, we never, ever want to move down," said Trujillo. "They all know that. We tripped a bit on the back nine, but shooting 1-under as a team is not easy."
The Lobos trailed Pepperdine by two shots after 18 holes, but the two teams are knotted at 585 (1-over par) going into Saturday's 8 a.m. shotgun start on the final day of the 54-hole tournament. UNM shot a 1-under 291 on Friday.
The Lobos were paced by junior Jodi Ewart, who took over the individual lead by firing a 4-under par 69. Ewart's 36-hole total of 141 is 5-under par and gives her a 1-shot cushion over Pepperdine's Jayvie Agojo, who carded a 71 on Friday. There are three golfers tied at 144.
The race for individual honors might be a two-player race, but the battle for the 2008 McGuire team title appears to definitely be a two-team race as UNM and Pepperdine hold a nine-shot lead over UC Davis. It's doubtful that both Pepperdine and UNM would crash on the final 18 holes.
"We were gangbusters coming out of the blocks," said Trujillo. We were 5-under after three holes and that's good. We made a lot of birdies, but gave too much back with bogeys."
Trujillo said her Lobos emphasized coming out stronger on Friday's front nine after getting off to a slow start on the front nine on Thursday. The UNM coach wants a more balanced round on Saturday, but is really hoping for a strong finish.
"We plan to come out steady early and then finish strong to take advantage of 13, 14, 15 and 16," said Trujillo. "Those are the toughest four holes in a row on this course and we need to get through them even-par or better."
Hellbom's card of 77 did not count toward the Lobos' team total on Thursday and Backstedt's 80 did not count on Friday. A team score consists of the top four cards out of five. Trujillo is hoping that all five UNM golfers can get in at 75 or under on Saturday.
"It's difficult for a team to shoot under par and it's difficult to have everyone on the team play well on the same day," said the second-year UNM coach. "But anytime you shoot a bigger number than 2-over, there is a lack of focus in there somewhere and you have to do something different the next day. Mikaela is a senior and I have no doubt that she is going to bounce back."
One Lobo who was hoping to make a major bounce back on Friday was Choy, who Trujillo said has been playing extremely well. Choy shot a 75 on Thursday and cut into that score by two shots (73) on Friday.
"I'm a little happier, but not a lot," said Choy. "I'm striking the ball really well and getting it close, but I'm still struggling with my putts. I need to make some birdies. There is frustration, but you can't feel frustration when you are out on the course. I think things will click (on Saturday)."
Choy agreed with her coach that 13, 14, 15 and 16 could be keys for UNM to plow past Pepperdine.
"Those holes are a lot longer with tricky greens and if we can play those holes better, we can steal the win," she said. "Our goal is to win and to win by a lot, but a win is a win."
A Lobos' sweep of the team and individual titles is exactly what Trujillo envisions when she talks about "defending our turf." Ewart's 69 on Friday matched the low score of the tournament. The average score after 36 holes is 77.54.
"I'm not hitting the ball any different," Ewart said of the difference between her 72 on Thursday and her 69 on Friday. "The putts were just dropping and I made a few longer ones than I usually do."
Ewart had a chance to give UNM a 1-shot lead going into Saturday's final 18 holes, but shot a par (5) on No. 18 while Pepperdine's Agojo finished with a birdie.
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.