SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – The scene looked very familiar as the LSU women’s golf team played their official practice round Thursday prior to the start of the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club’s Raptor Course.
The event returns to the same venue where a year ago LSU just missed qualifying for the match play portion of the tournament, finishing ninth, one shot out of the match play cut.
Three of the five players for LSU – Ingrid Lindblad, Latanna Stone and Carla Tejedo – experienced that last year and seemed to have a quiet confidence and determination to rectify that when play begins on Friday. Alternate Alden Wallace, who is here and practiced with the team on Thursday, was also on that quintet that played in 2021.
“It’s very similar to the way it looked last year,” said LSU women’s golf coach Garrett Runion, who is in his fourth season as the LSU head women’s golf coach. “The rough is still very thick, but maybe not as long. The greens are a little drier, which means they are rolling a little bit faster. There are some quicker putts this year. Being on the right side of the hole, chipping and putting will be huge. If you are on the wrong side you are going to struggle to get it close. All those little details around the green will be important. We are fortunate we get to go off first thing (Friday) morning. It will be cooler. It looks like the wind is going to pick up. We have a chance to set the tone in the first round and post a good score.”
LSU posted a score of 22-over 1,174 for 72 holes, the second lowest 72-hole score in school history. LSU had solid rounds of 296-292-296 and the second lowest round the team has ever shot in an NCAA Championship event, 290.
Tejedo had the best 72 holes for the Tigers last year shooting 3-over 291 to finish at T20. Lindblad finished with a 2-under par round of 70 to shoot 7-over 295 and Stone an 8-over 296.
The Tigers are making their 15th appearance in the NCAA Championship tournament since the event started in 1982. This is the first time LSU has appeared in back-to-back NCAA championships since the 2011 and 2012 events when LSU finished third in both when the tournament ended after 72 holes of stroke play.
Hydration is a word heard often throughout the facility as temperatures are expected to be close to 100 most days. There is a 60 percent chance of winds gusts over 30 miles per hour in the Friday mid-late afternoon and evening, according to a weather briefing given to the coaches Wednesday night.
But the LSU coaches have noticed some differences Thursday from last year and when the team played a practice round here in March.
In the final pre-tournament analysis, the chance to play for a national championship at the same place again should play dividends for the teams that return to Grayhawk a second time.
“They know the deal. They kind of have the routine down,” Runion said. “There is always a comfort level and (the LSU players) have that sense that they belong. They are motivated. They still think about that one shot from last year. They want to go out and do everything they can to not be on the wrong side of that one shot this year. They know it is going to come down to a shot or two. They know how to adjust to the dry heat. The ball goes a little bit further and little things like that. Knowing that and having experienced that makes you a little bit more comfortable and hopefully, play better.”
LSU will be in the morning/afternoon waves in the first two days of the tournament with UCLA and Baylor. The Tigers will lead off play on the back nine starting at 6:30 a.m. PT (8:30 a.m. Baton Rouge time) as 12 teams will play in the morning with the afternoon wave of 12 teams starting at 11:30 a.m. PT. The last tee time of the day is at 1:31 p.m. PT (3:31 Baton Rouge time).
The tournament is in many respects three qualifying events in one as the first 54 holes will determine the 15 teams from the 24 that advance to the final day of stroke play on Monday. In that round, not only will the individual champion be crowned, but also the eight teams that will play for the national team championship will be decided.
Like the SECs a month ago, the tournament then goes to match play, with two rounds Tuesday and a championship match on Wednesday.
The Golf Channel will have extensive live coverage of the tournament on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Senior Jessica Bailey and freshman Else Svensson will be making their NCAA debuts, although Bailey has seen action in a national championship, finishing T8 in the NJCAA Championships in 2019.
The course will play to 6,383 yards and a par of 72.
Live scoring for the national championships can be found at Golfstat.com under the NCAA Division I Golf Championships block. Updates from the course throughout the round will be available on Twitter @LSUWomensGolf.