TALE OF THE WEEKEND
VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s golf team qualified for the 23rd Annual NAIA women’s golf national championship through an at-large berth and will challenge for a national banner yet to be won in the history of the Vikes women’s program. Senior Vike Laura Ferreira will lead the Victoria contingent that consists of Nicole Gargarella, Hannah Diamond, Rhiannon Jones and Melanie Murchison. Vikes assistant coach David Rands will be the staff member on point throughout the event.
ABOUT THE EVENT
Hosted from May 23-26 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the national championship will be a four-round tournament with a cut after 54 holes. The competition is stroke play with the top four of five score per team posted each today and counting towards team standings. The tournament field is cut after 54 holes and reduced to the top 17 teams and 40 individuals.
“We haven’t played this course before but we know that this will be the strongest field in which the women will compete,” said Vikes head coach Justin Clews. “This will be a great opportunity for the women’s team and I’m sure regardless how they finish, they will take something away from this event. They deserve to be there, they worked really hard this year and I know they have the ability to post some strong scores.”
SCOUTING THE COURSE
The Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2014 and hosts the Honda Classic each spring on the PGA TOUR. Although The Champion has generous landing areas and spacious and accepting TifEagle greens, golfers are presented with course management challenges throughout the round. PGA National Resort’s Champion course, with its demanding Bear Trap, provided the toughest tournament test of golf during the 2013 PGA TOUR season according to Golf Digest.
“We have two practice rounds to prepare for the event,” said Ferreira. “The course looks great but Florida has different grass and the greens run differently so we will need to take our time and pay attention to things like the speed and where to hit.”
COACH’S TAKE (JUSTIN CLEWS)
On this year’s team success so far:
“The biggest highlight leading in to this event was their victory at Corban’s Match Play spring event. This gave the girls a lot of confidence and ultimately put them in the position to qualify for this NAIA Championship. They need to keep building off the momentum of this win and be confident in their abilities. Continued good work and practice ethic is key for them to succeed and they just need to keep it simple.”
On the team’s likely challenges:
“Probably the biggest challenge will be the unfamiliarity of competing in the NAIA Championship. It’s also a longer event and they need to make sure they stay in the present and not get too overwhelmed.”
On assistant coach Dave Rands:
“Dave has been the real leader of this team. At the beginning of the season, I gave him greater responsibilities in managing the team and he has done beyond my expectations. The girls really appreciate the time he puts into practices and qualifiers and know that he really cares about the program. I think that alone is what really translates their recent success.”
PLAYER’S TAKE (LAURA FERREIRA)
On qualifying through the No. 12 and last At-Large berth:
“Obviously we are thrilled to have received an at-large berth. I think we need to focus on our mental and physical preparation for a four-day event. I’m the only one who has been to NAIA nationals before so I can help the girls grind out six days of golfing in the Florida heat. We also need to remember to have fun. When you’re at the course for more than six hours a day it’s important to enjoy it.”
On tournament expectations:
“I think our short game is going to be challenged,” added Ferreira. “The climate brings in a new element that we haven’t had to work with and it changes the condition of the course and the speeds around the greens. We’re going to have to work hard to play smart. Ultimately we’re going into this event looking to play our best. We know we can compete with these teams but we want to enjoy ourselves. The girls haven’t had much experience with these big tournaments so it will be exciting to see what they can bring to the table.”