February 9, 2013

Women’s Golf Gears Up for Spring Debut

Eagles head to the familiar Ocotillo Golf Resort, where they will play on green grass for the first time in four months

This upcoming weekend, the Eastern Washington University women’s golf team will make its first of three trips during the spring to the Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Ariz.

In its first event of the 2013 season, Eastern will compete at The Lumberjack at Ocotillo. This three-day, 54-hole tournament is hosted by Northern Arizona, and will feature seven of 11 Big Sky teams. Play begins Monday (Feb. 11) and consists of 18 holes each day.

The Ocotillo Golf Resort, which is also home to the 2013 Big Sky Championship, is a par 72, 6,308 yard course. Eastern has played at Ocotillo at least two times in each of the previous five seasons.

“This first tournament is actually earlier than I would normally schedule, since we haven’t actually had a chance to be outside in close to four months,” said EWU head coach Brenda Howe, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the program. “But it is the same course as the conference tournament, so it’s a relevant course. And it’s on green grass. We will probably get more accomplished in four days in Arizona than we could in a couple weeks practicing indoors here.”

Eastern played in four tournaments in the fall, averaging 321.8 strokes per round as a team. With three freshmen on the roster this year, as well as one sophomore, the Eagles experienced a few growing pains in the fall. But Howe is eager to get back on the links for the spring season, now that her younger members have had experience playing at the collegiate level.

“I saw some good things this fall, and I thought we had some really encouraging rounds,” said Howe. “Right now, we are working on improving the mental and physical endurance of our team. I would like to see the same intensity on a chip on the 36th hole that I saw on the 2nd.”

Eastern, which has finished eighth in the conference tournament for four-consecutive seasons, was picked ninth out of 11 in the 2013 Big Sky preseason coaches’ poll. With a realistic outlook, the Eagles are gunning for a fifth, sixth or seventh place finish in the newly expanded Big Sky Conference.

“Realistically, I think by the time the conference tournament comes around, we have a definite chance to finish in the middle of the pack,” said Howe. “We’ve been toward the bottom the last couple years, but in every tournament this fall, we had rounds where we beat other Big Sky schools. We would just have one blow up round that would kill us. We need to focus on consistency, and fighting on every hole from the first to the last of the round. If we can do that, I am confident we will have lower scores and a better finish at conference.”

The Eagles were led in the fall season by one of its three freshmen in Marissa Borja. The rookie out of Spring Valley, Calif., averaged 79.3 strokes per round, and posted the lowest round for an Eagle at the WSU Cougar Cup, where she shot 75 in the first round on the challenging Palouse Ridge Golf Course.

Senior Jayme Carbon posted the same exact average in the fall of 79.3 In 12 total rounds played, Carbon shot in the 70s in 10 of them.

“It was really exciting as a coach to have a freshman come in and match the play of a veteran,” said Howe. “And I think Marissa is only going to get better. She is one of those players who just knows how to get the ball in the hole. I think Jayme also has an opportunity to have a great spring season. We are playing three of our five tournaments on a course that she has been playing since she was a freshman. For Jayme, it’s just about the finding that mental endurance for a full 36 or 54 holes. Several times in the fall, she would have a great round of 76, but then shoot 86 in the very next round. If she can overcome that, Jayme should have a great senior year.”

Howe will also be looking to sophomore Caitilin Rice and freshmen Taylor Anderson and Maddie Dodge to make an impact this spring as part of the traveling squad.

Rice posted the third-best average on the team in the fall at 80.6, followed by Dodge, who averaged 82.8 strokes in 12 rounds played.

“Maddie had an amazing up and down percentage in the fall at 43 percent,” said Howe. “In my first three years, most of our players have only been in the 20-30 percent range. I am completely confident that even if she misses the green, Maddie can get up and down to save par every time. Marissa is the same way. Never before have I had that kind of confidence in a player, and I think it is something that makes a really strong golfer.”

Following The Lumberjack at Ocotillo, Eastern will head back down to Arizona for the Red Rocks Invitational at the Oakcreek Country Club in Sedona, Ariz. EWU will then play in the Jackrabbit Invitational in Primm, Nev., before back-to-back weekends at Ocotillo for the 2013 Cowgirl Classic (April 8-10), and the 2013 Big Sky Conference Championship, held April 21-23.

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