February 10, 1999
Qualifying. Q-school. Dreaded words to many golf professionals, male and female, around the world. It's golf's pressure cooker. Whether or not you have playing privileges for the next year. Many of the game's best shake, sweat and cry at these "schools" which are the most extreme tests of golfers' mental strength.
So what does this have to do with Tulane women's golf?
Qualifying for lineup spots has never been as competitive for this deep team. Because of the team's balance, head coach Sue Bower has scheduled more, and longer, qualifiers than ever before.
The fall qualifying was hotly contested with qualifying for one event going to extra holes. As a result of the extreme competition from within the team, the Green Wave was well-prepared as they faced some of the nation's finest teams in the fall of 1998.
The Tulane women's golf team hopes to use its solid fall as a catapult to reach new heights this spring. The fall featured good, steady golf against some great competition. The Wave posted a 307.8 stroke average, the program's best ever. As a result of this fine play, Tulane enters the spring with a No. 31 ranking in GolfWeek, and an opportunity to contend for a berth in the NCAA Regionals.
In fall competition, Tulane started the same lineup in each of the five events. All five players averaged less than 80 strokes per round, a first for the program, it is certainly possible that the same lineup will build on its fall success.
But what may actually push the program to new heights is competition from within the team, which is the deepest team Tulane has ever had and one of the deepest in the nation.
"I think that nine of the players on this roster could start at most schools in the country," said head coach Sue Bower. "Qualifying on this team has been, and will continue to be, extremely competitive."
The fall's starting five of Pam Buff, Meghan Bolger, Catalina Lara, Bonnie Hanlin and Christy Carter all return and are hoping to elevate their play one more notch to push the program to new levels.
Even if the team does not qualify for NCAAs, a solid spring by Buff will ensure her second consecutive NCAA appearance as an individual. The spring schedule could allow Buff to add to her two individual titles already won in her brief career.
The long-hitting Bolger had her best semester as a Tulane golfer, usually holding down the second position for the Wave. She had a particularly strong finish in the Auburn Lady Tiger Invitational, shooting 77-73=150 for 36 holes.
Lara returned to form in the fall of 1998 after an injury-riddled sophomore campaign. Her fall included four rounds of 76 or better after only qualifying for three out of nine as a sophomore.
Bonnie Hanlin has shown considerable improvement from her freshman to sophomore seasons, averaging just over 79 shots per round in the fall. The 1998 Oklahoma State Women's Amateur Champion looks to improve further as she gains consistency with her short game.
Senior Christy Carter provided valuable leadership at the fall events. Cater is a key cog in the success of this team and hopes to return to the NCAA qualifying form of her sophomore season.
Several other players will contend for playing time in the spring. Senior Jamie Jaspriza earned all-Conference USA honors in 1998, and has a complete game which is capable of producing low scores. Prior to the fall of 1998, Jaspriza had qualified for nearly every tournament in her three seasons at Tulane and she expects to return to the lineup.
Pia Alamaki and Misty Elliott, a pair of freshmen with a wealth of tournament experience, should contribute to the team's depth. Alamaki was one of the top 60 juniors in the U.S. in 1998 and in 1997 won the Finnish girls match play title in her native Finland. Alamaki possesses a marvelous short game sound course management.
Elliott is a solid ball-striker with tremendous length off the tee. "Both Pia and Misty have a great deal of tournament experience and expect to seriously challenge for lineup spots this spring," said Bower.
Senior Corey Driver, a tremendous all-around athlete, has started 13 tournament in her Tulane career. Corey is a streaky player who could again challenge for playing time if she finds her game this spring.
Junior Marcia Steinberg is possibly the team's most improved player and freshman Kim Voorhees is a talented player and one of the squad's hardest workers.
The initial spring qualifying will be for positions in the Green Wave's appearance at the USM Invitational at the Timberton Golf Club in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Wave will play at the Ben Hogan Fripp Island Intercollegiate before competing in the LSU Fairwood Invitational in Baton Rouge, La. The event features some of the nations's top teams, including top-ranked Duke, Auburn, Mississippi and UCLA.
To complete a busy month of March, the squad will return home to host the third annual Green Wave Women's Golf Classic at Lakewood Country Club. The event features its strongest field ever, including Campbell, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and 29th-ranked Wisconsin.
The regular season ends with what could be the toughest Conference USA Championship yet, at the scenic Sandestin resort in Sandestin, Fla. Last season, Tulane fell in extra holes to South Florida and is hoping to perform even better this season. But a conference championship won't come without facing tough competition.
Of course tough competition will be nothing new to the Green Wave golfers. They face it every day in practice.