Stevens Uses LPGA Tour as Tune Up for NCAA Play
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  05/02/2014

North Texas LPGA Shootout

Where:  Las Colinas Country Club, Irving

UP NEXT FOR LOBOS: May 8-10, 2014 NCAA West Regionals at Cle Elum, Washington

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLoboos.com

As a warm-up for the 2014 NCAA West Regional and as a birthday gift of sorts, New Mexico’s Sammi Stevens couldn’t ask for anything much better.

She got to tee it up for two days with LPGA stars such as Natalie Gulbis, Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr,  Michelle Wie, Juli Inkster,  Lexi Thompson – well, you can pretty much name them all when  there is LPGA money on the line.

Stevens, a Lobo senior who turned 22 this week, is eying a professional career and earned a spot in the 2014 North LPGA Texas Shootout by firing a 68 in an 18-hole qualifier for college students.

“When it’s a one-day qualifier, you go out and you never know how it’s going to go,” said Stevens after coming within a shot of her UNM career best round with the 68. “I just happened to get hot that day. I’m so honored to be here.”

Stevens got hot in making the Texas Shootout but didn’t quite fare as well on the first day teeing it up with the LPGA stars.  She did better over the second 18 holes.

Stevens fired an opening-round 76 but followed that with a solid  72 (Wie shot a second-round 73), but missed the 36-hole cut.   Brittany Fan, the other collegiate to play her way into the field, also missed the cut with a 79-74 card.  Stevens finished a two-day, 6-over card of 148.

 “One of the things I love about this tournament is the fact that we get the younger girls in here and give them a chance to learn a little bit, to play with the pros,” said  Stacy Lewis, who is a shot off the 36-hole pace set by Meena Lee.

“That’s something that I got to do in college that I think really helped me a lot coming out here, kind of knowing what to expect and also knowing where my game stood and where I could improve,”

Lee ripped the Las Colinas Country Club in Irving with a second-round 64 which Lewis matched.  Lee has a two-day total of 134 and is tied with Caroline Masson who went 67-67.

What Stevens and Fan learned was really no surprise.  You have to shoot low to play with the talent in the LPGA and make the cut.  It’s not that Stevens’ 76 was awful.  Se Ri Pack also shot a 76 over the first 18 holes.  There also is pressure at that level.  Annika Clark, one of the two high school qualifiers, shot a 81-82.  One LPGA pro shot an opening-round 88.

That same  “go low” message will apply for Stevens and the New Mexico Lobos when they enter next week’s NCAA West Region as the No. 21 seed out of 24 teams.  The Lobos earned their ticket to regionals by winning the 2014 Mountain West Championship.  They’ll need to finish in the top eight in order to advance to the NCAA finals.

“It’s just been pretty incredible,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing is when you’re just practicing with all these pros, it’s just like you’re one of them, and I think that by far is just the coolest part for me.  It’s been pretty awesome getting the VIP treatment really.  It’s just been unreal.”