New Mexico Lobos Women's Golf – Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational
When/Where: September 15-16 -- UNM Championship Course
The Field vs. New Mexico: Brigham Young, California-Berkeley, California-Davis, Colorado State, Denver, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Kansas State, UNLV, Nevada, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Texas-El Paso.
The 2014-15 Lobos, Manon Mollé, Katerina Jaeger, Kalyn Thayer, Eva Saulnier, Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez, Alexandra Moisand.
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Albuquerque, N.M. – The good thing about opening a golf season at home is – well, you are home. The bad thing is that’s the last time you’ll be able to take advantage of home-course knowledge for the rest of the season.
Still, with the schedule Lobo Coach Jill Trujillo has tossed in front of her young Lobos – one of the younger rosters in the nation -- it might be best that her Lobos are opening the 2014-15 tour of the links with the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational. The tournament is set for September 15-16 at UNM’s challenging Championship Course.
Trujillo’s roster is full of Lobo pups. She has no seniors, no juniors, four sophomores in Manon Mollé, Katerina Jaeger, Kalyn Thayer and Eva Saulnier, and two freshmen in Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez and Alexandra Moisand. UNM lost Sammi Stevens, Manon De Roey and Sofia Hoglund to graduation and has no choice but to go with the youth movement in 2014-15.
The obvious leader in this year’s pack is Manon Mollé. As a freshman, Mollé made a strong charge for the 2014 Mountain West medalist honors and her eventual fifth-place finish helped propel New Mexico to the 2014 MW team crown. Mollé was named All-MW Second Team. Jaeger and Saulnier also played in the MW Championships and also the 2014 NCAA Regional.
The Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational is one of the nation’s top collegiate tournaments and the Championship Course is a big reason. It can play long and the huge, undulating greens put a premium on hitting the right spots to avoid the hated three-putt.
The Lobos have won their fall classic seven times dating back to its original roots in 1956. That also puts a footnote on the home-course advantage. You still have to drive it straight, hit greens and make putts. This course doesn’t roll over for anyone including Lobos.
And it’s not like New Mexico is loaded with upperclassmen who have been playing this course for four years.
“When it is your tournament on your course, sometimes you take things for granted,” said Trujillo. “You have to be tournament ready and not let the course sneak up and get you.”
The 2014 Branch/McGuire could see a back-to-back champ as the Pepperdine Waves returns to defend the team title they won by 12 shots in 2013. The Waves return Marissa Chow, the tourney runner-up in 2013, and Somin Lee, who tied for third place. Pepperdine also returns three-year letterwinner Alina Ching. Pepperdine lost All-American Grace Na to graduation.
The Waves finished the 2013-14 season with Golfweek’s No. 12 ranking and were No. 18 in Golfstat.com. They came into last year’s tournament with a No. 15 preseason ranking from Golfweek.
Iowa State, the 2012 Branch/McGuire team champ, returns looking to make it two out of three. UNM finished eighth last year.
The 2014 tourney will have a new individual champ. Oregon’s Cassy Isagawa won last year’s event, but Oregon is not in this year’s field. Isagawa tied the tournament’s individual record in 2013 with a winning card of 70-68-69--207. Isagawa won the Branch/McGuire by six shots – 12-under for the 54 holes.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and national award winning Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.