ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Campbell University's women's golf team had a good look at the conditions of playing desert golf more than a mile above sea level Sunday in the practice round of the NCAA Albuquerque Regional.
Coach John Crooks' Big South Conference champions used the five-hour session to acclimate to the elevation (more than 5300 feet) and rolling terrain as well as the bent and poa annua grass greens of the University of New Mexico Championship Course as winds gusted to over 20 miles per hour during the team's second nine.
The 12th-seeded Camels will be paired with 10th seed Washington and 11th-seeded SMU for Monday's first round and start from the 10th tee at 7:30 a.m. (MDT). Live scoring will be available at Golfstat.com.
Top-ranked Stanford, No.-6 Southern Cal and No.-9 Duke are the top three seeds in the 18-team field. The top six teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams in the 54-hole event will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 19-24 at Sugar Grove, Ill.
"Any great golf course has so many subtle changes you have to be aware of and this golf course – with the wind, changes in elevation, changes on the greens and severe breaks – knowing where the (Rio Grande) river is. These are things we normally don't have to worry about in Buies Creek," said Coach Crooks. "The practice round is very important. We had a good one, we played quickly, and I saw a lot of good shots, a lot of good things."
The Camels, ranked No.-47 in the nation, were on the practice green an hour before their 8:12 a.m. tee time; then focused on fairway and green landing zones, while putting to different potential pin placements.
Campbell's lineup features the 2017 (Annelie Sjoholm) and 2016 (Nadine White) Big South Conference golfer of the year, plus the 2017 Big South freshman of the year in Desiree Andersson. All five players who will compete in Albuquerque were named to the Big South all-conference team, including junior Ayelen Irizar and sophomore Anna Svanka.
The par-72 UNM Championship Course, which has been nationally recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top-25 public courses in the country, will stretch to 6637 yards for the three-day regional. The Championship Course was the site of the 1950, 1976 and 1992 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships as well as the 1998 NCAA Championships. In 1987 the course was the sight of the women's NCAA tourney.
Sjoholm ranks No.-121 nationally in the Golfstat Cup and leads the Big South Conference with a 73.28 stroke average. She stands 21st in the country with 95 birdies and will be competing in her second regional after tying for 19th in last year's NCAA event at Bryan, Texas.
White is No.-148 in the Golfstat Cup (73.52) and is the top-ranked amateur golfer in her native Australia, No.-79 in the world. The 2016 Big South Championship medalist, White was runner-up in this year's event after shooting a league tournament and school record, seven-under 65 in the final round. When she tees off Monday morning, she will be just the fifth player in Campbell women's golf history to participate in four NCAA regional events.
Andersson led all Big South freshmen (and ranked seventh overall) with a 75.04 scoring average. She finished third in the Big South Championship at five-under 211 (69-68-74). Irizar finished 10th at the Big South Championship (73-75-71—219) and was ninth in stroke average (75.41). Svanka was 11th in the league in stroke average (75.65) and finished 14th at the conference championship, where she was one-under over her final 36 holes.
Crooks has guided his team to 20 regional berths in the last 25 years, including six-straight. The Camels reached the NCAA Championship in 2014 and 2015.