Women's Golf Looks To Continue Hot Start At Irvine Invite
SPOKANE, Wash. - Off to the best start in program history, Gonzaga University's women's golf team plays its third tournament in as many weeks to open the spring season this week when the Bulldogs travel to the UC Irvine Invitational Presented by KIA.
The 54-hole tourney will begin with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start as the teams play 36 holes. Tuesday's final round will begin at 7:45 a.m. with tee times on holes 1 and 10. The tournament will be played at the par 72 Santa Ana, Calif., Country Club with the course playing to 5,888 yards Monday and 5,831 yards Tuesday.
Bulldog head coach Brad Rickel said he has been happy with his team's finishes thus far, a second in the spring-opening The Golf Rush and a victory last week at the Folino Invitational as the Zags successfully defended their title.
"I'm happy with our finishes. I felt we had a chance to win the first rounament and didn't and felt we had a chance to win the second tournament and we did. I'm happy with that. We definitely played better the second week and are showing signs of improvement which we need to do," Rickel said. "I'm excited. It's neat to get to see them win, especially a bunch of California girls playing a bunch of California schools in California in February. That part we like."
Raychelle Santos, a freshman from La Quinta, Calif., has been the medalist in each of the first two tournaments this spring. But that doesn't come as any surprise to Rickel.
"She's an amazing player. Very steady, always was. Just sort of goes about her busines; never really hits it too sideways, never does anyting too flashy, just at the end when she turns in her score she beats you. I was ecstatic when she decided to come to Gonzaga. I don't think anything good she does on the golf course will surprise me," Rickel said.
The depth of this year's team is a boost to the competitive spirit for playing time.
"We definitely have seven players who can be in the line-up at any time. I think if you're going to be a great program you have to have that. The people who aren't playing need to be good enough to play, and when they get a chance to be able to excel. I think it's good. We're deeper than we've ever been and hopefully come April that will pay dividends," Rickel said.
The line-up this week has been juggled a little. Santos will replace senior Victoria Fallgren in the No. 1 spot with Fallgren at No. 2. Sophomores Han Wu and Alice Kim will be No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, and senior Genavive 'Genna' Dodge returns to the line-up for the first time this spring after playing as an individual at The Gold Rush.
In addition to the Zags and host UC Irvine, the field includes fellow Gonzaga West Coast Conference foees BYU and Santa Clara University; the University of Idaho, Long Beach State, the University of Montana, North Dakota State University, the University of Northern Colorado, Portland State University, Sacramento State University, and UC Riverside.
Rickel said it's a formidable field.
"Irvine and Long Beach are both there and will be the best teams we've seen so far. We saw them both at Long Beach State and Long Beach beat us on their course. Now we are going to Irvine on one of their courses. It's a similar field as the others, but on a new golf course everything is new. If we're one week better than we've been then we'll be competitive again," Rickl noted.
Gonzaga is ranked 57th in the latest Golfstat rankings and 61st in Golfweek. LBSU is 73/74, respectively, in the Golfstat and Golfweek rankings, while Irvine is ranked 70/69.
Rickel, who took teams to the NCAA Regional when he was at the University of Idaho, said this year's Gonzaga team is comparable to some of his better Idaho squads.
"I think we're probably as deep as some of those teams were. We've now become a program that has a style of play and a belief in our abilities. We're also trying to figure out a way to maximiz our abilities. I see this as being very comparable to the teams I had at Idaho," Rickel said.
But he's not booking any NCAA tickets yet and hopes his players are shying away from the topic.
"I hope not," Rickel said when asked if the NCAA topic is something his team talks about and looks forward to. "You can only achieve those sort of goals if you stay in the moment; you do what you are suppose to do when you are suppose to do it. You can't work toward that, you just have to have it as the ultimate goal and stay within what you are trying to do.
"All we can do is show up, have a great practice round, figure out the golf course as best we can and be 100 percent invested in the event. If we end up making it to the post season it won't be because that's what we were thinking about, it's because it will be a by-product that we stayed true to doing what we're doing when we're doing it," he explained.
The three straight tournaments in as many weeks isn't something Rickel wants to do all the time, but there are occasions when it can't be avoided.
"It's good," he said of the three-week stretch. "We only missed one day of school last week because of the holiday. Sometimes you have to play three times in a row."
Following this week's event the Bulldogs will be idle until March 12-13 when they compete in the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational in Kaneohe, Hawai'i.