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Lowe Column: Ready To Watch For Some New NCAA Memories

Lowe Column: Ready To Watch For Some New NCAA Memories

CARLSBAD, California — Welcome to the new site of the NCAA Championships for men’s and women’s golf.

It appears that “Geaux Lowe” is here for the long haul and, I’m pretty fine with that. I’m very happy that the LSU men’s golf team is joining the nationally-ranked LSU women’s team here at the OMNI La Costa Resort and Spa.

We are about four hours as we publish this from the first tee shot of LSU women’s first round of the championships on a course that is for people of my age is a historic site on the PGA Tour. After a major renovation and a bid by Texas to be the host school for the next three years, this NCAA tournament has come to one of the resort meccas of southern California and a golf course that is enjoying this weekend the start of a new era of play after the work by famed golf architect Gil Hanse and his staff.

First of all, the weather aspect is going to be so much different from Scottsdale and that is obvious. The marine layer is not supposed to be a factor in the opening two or three rounds and by the time LSU tees off the sunscreen may be needed. But temperatures in the upper 60s will feel pretty good for the golfers and spectators alike.

There are some generous fairways, but rough that can be devilishly deep. New course means firm greens and I watched three teams in practice on the 15 hit to the edge of a green complex on a hill and around the green is fairway cut and a green miss probably means your ball is rolling until it is stopped by the water hazard.

There are some risk-reward holes that will be interesting to see how teams play them. Maybe early take the safe play, maybe toward the third or fourth round it will be time to be aggressive. No idea on how the scores will rate but my prediction that the great teams could separate from those happy to be here after two rounds.

And 15 teams will be on the course and through their rounds by the time LSU steps on the tee at 12:22 PDT (2:22 in Baton Rouge) so we’ll have an early idea how it plays.

It’s not quite that Michael Jordan mini-series, but there is a certain “Last Dance” feel to this year’s Championship for the Tigers. Ingrid Lindblad, Latanna Stone and Carla Tejedo will end one of the greatest eras any trio has ever had at LSU when the championships end.

Lindblad and Stone, especially, wanted to come back for their fifth year to get another shot at the championships and here we are.

Here’s the thing, when the Chicago Bulls team had their “last dance” the team would never be the same. This is different. LSU will continue to be a player in the women’s game moving forward because you have Aine Donegan who will be a senior, Taylor Riley, Edit Hertzman, Jordan Fischer, and Elsa Svensson.

Then you throw in three incoming freshman signed in the fall starting with Carla’s younger sister, Rocio. She just happens to be No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Also with excellent credentials is Phoenix, Arizona’s Samantha Olson and Sweden’s Josefin Widal who will be a part of the 2024-25 campaign.

So, while this year’s team tied the school mark for most consecutive NCAA Championship appearances at four, there is every reason to believe that a new mark of five and counting should be on the table in 2025.

But there is a little history with Lindblad, Stone and Tejedo making the championships for a fourth time. Only three other golfers – Katy Harris, Meredith Duncan and Megan McChrystal – all great in their own right, have played in four NCAA Championships. Only Harris and the Lindblad, Stone, Tejedo trio will have played in four NCAA team championship events. The 2024 trio and Harris, Duncan and McChrystal would be a golf roster any coach would love.

While the name Gil Hanse has been discussed so much with the renovation of the North Course here at La Costa, I had to go look up the original designer Dick Wilson, who finished La Costa a year before his death in 1965. You have to be unfortunately of a certain age to know the history of this course which for 30 years hosted the Tournament of Champions (no it wasn’t always held in Maui).

Wilson was a designer of some prominent courses including Bay Hill in Florida, Doral in Florida and the East Course at PGA National.

Now he might not recognize his course that the Hanse team has put together that can be played up to 7,500 yards from the back tee boxes. The course will play a bit over 6,300 yards for the women and 7,400 for the men.

A lot of the course redesign was done with the match play portion of the NCAAs in mind with a lot of tests along the way. There is a drivable par 4 on No. 11; a repositioned green on the par-3 16th to remind people of the 12th at Augusta and a par 5 18th hole that should play into a prevailing wind with water on both sides of the fairway.

I enjoyed visiting 16 on Thursday because I remember when the TOC was rained out in 1997 but Tiger Woods was tied with Tom Lehman. So they went out to 16 because the tee is on a hill and so is the green so it was one spot that wasn’t slightly under water and Tiger got up and took an iron and hit it to tap-in distance to win the playoff.

All those were memories of the past. The NCAA Championships will establish the new memories of this course and this venue. There are a few learning curves when a new venue hosts the event in trying to get distances right for both women and men. Hopefully, those will be few and golf fans and later in the event, the television viewers will get a good luck at great players taking on a wonderful course.

We will be following and updating on “X” throughout the afternoon and early evening @LSUwomensgolf and @LSUKent. Live scoring at Thanks for reading and Geauxing Lowe from the championships of the NCAA.