Column: Third Time A Charm At Grayhawk? Marathon Golf; On Course Animals & More
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona –– I feel like the “Geaux Lowe” logo for the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships should have me wiping my brow with a towel.
But when it comes down to it, there is no bad place for the NCAA Championships if you are there and for LSU, a third time in three years in Scottsdale is pretty darn good.
It will be hot but according to forecasts not the triple digit hot that has been experienced in the first two years of the women’s and men’s championships. There may be a bit of a question of what’s the difference between 97 and 101 when standing on the course, but a few degrees is a few degrees.
And, as the Tigers start here in just a couple of hours, it may not get to the mid-90s in Scottsdale today so we’ll take that.
This is the ultimate marathon when it comes to college golf. It’s not a sprint, although in some spots it might be compared to that.
Fifty-four holes of stroke play. Then a cut to the top 15. One more stroke play round that will not only determine an individual champion, but the top eight that will go to match play next Tuesday and Wednesday.
LSU has made the first cut the last two years, finishing in a tie for 11th last year, five shots away from match play. The year before, in 2021, was even more heartbreaking, missing the final eight by just one shot. LSU shot 1,174 for 72 holes, just one shot off the best 72-hole score in school history.
The Tigers have knocked on the door a couple of times in the days since the format turned to stroke play/match play. This is the year they hope to kick it open and make that top eight.
It’s called the Raptor Course that the teams are playing at again this year. There isn’t an Amen Corner or a Bear Trap, but it is 18 holes that unfolds over the gentle hills and natural terrain found in a picturesque corner of the Sonoran Desert. Fairways are generous and greens large with deep bunkers and collection areas that make approach placement key to scoring.
It’s dessert golf and it is different than what many teams see most of the year.
The rough seems a bit denser and trickier, more like 2021, after watching the practice round, but every player handles it differently.
One thing Coach Garrett Runion told the team last night is that holes 3-7 (which will be on LSU’s second nine Friday) is laid out like the loop at Greystone in Birmingham that were important holes for getting through during the SEC Championships. We’ll be watching scores there closely because pars could gain team strokes on the leaderboard on those holes.
It is an entertaining course to watch golf on and with some risk/reward holes things can change in a hurry. But, as an aside, remembering Grayhawk for the NCAAs after writing Greystone for a week at SECs is a feat in itself.
As the guest on the Play-by-Play podcast Chris Blair and I host this past Monday, Coach Runion talked with us about how the ball flies in the afternoon and with 30 teams taking part this year, there is a pretty distinctive early and late wave of 15 teams each of the first three days.
Being the number three seed puts LSU in the afternoon-morning wave the first 36 holes and to me that is an advantage to be in the top 15 seeds that will play afternoon-morning. Now your second round begins very early on Saturday after a late finish Friday, but it is early in the tournament and strength and sustainability is still in your corner.
Where the big advantage is playing your second round and being done by noon and if you are in the top 15 you don’t play again until Sunday morning.
We’ll have a little bit of knowledge of what the morning teams are shooting when LSU tees off right before noon local time, but it will be hard to get a complete feel for the tournament scores until 36 holes are done and things set up for the first cut round on Sunday.
Let’s see we saw a couple of snakes, some rabbits, a few prairie dogs and some other things I’m not real sure what the heck they were during the LSU practice round Thursday. These are all things to keep an eye on but not quite the alligator that was walking down the fairway at PGA National last week during the regional.
And then there are the cactus. Or is that cacti? It could get a little tricky if a tee shot goes wandering and into some of the native areas of this course. I’ll try to stay on the cart path and away from wandering animals, the cacti and wandering golf balls. And find what little shade exists.
It was an honor to be at the Golf House at the University Club for a chance to say congrats to three of LSU’s players that would be at graduation ceremonies on this day if they were not here in Scottsdale playing for the national championship – Ingrid Lindblad, Latanna Stone and Alden Wallace. Wallace by the way earned her master’s degree.
Another Tiger, Jess Bailey, was also honored with the group and she will receive her degree officially at the end of the summer term in August.
It’s always important to remember at times like this that they are student-athletes. I know it’s a term some average fans hate especially when it’s brought up at NCAA events by press conference moderators and the like, but these ladies work hard at school and work hard at their athletic craft. They’ve done pretty good with both in my mind.
So here we are. Tee off time is coming up shortly for the Tigers. Not a sprint but a marathon, but then again you can’t wait as late as LSU did in the regional. The Tigers need to be solid from the start and as Coach Runion said on the podcast that the record shows LSU has done well on the par 3s at Grayhawk and solid on the par 5s. An improvement in par 5 play and just good play on the par 4s is what could get LSU into the Top 8.
Will the third time at Grayhawk be the charm? Keep in touch with our social media sites and we’ll keep you posted. Thanks for checking out this NCAA “Geaux Lowe.”