Pac-10 women’s golf titles stay in AZ – at different schools

The rain and chilly weather in Washington wasn’t enough to keep Arizona State’s women golfers from successfully defending their team conference title.

But a little virus bug was.

The Sun Devils led the Pac-10 tournament after the first day of play, but fell behind when two on the team, Jennifer Johnson and Giulia Molinaro, picked up a serious virus and had to lay low in the hotel during the final round. That left just three standing for the Devils.

Johnson and Molinara recovered enough to make it to the 10th tee for a single-hole playoff between two of their teammates, Carlota Ciganda and Juliana Murcia, for the medalist honor.  Ciganda birdied the hole to claim the Champion title and become the first back-to-back Pac-10 champion.

It was the sophomore’s first medalist honor of the season and third of her young career.  And for her school, she became the eleventh individual Pac-10 Champion.

Ciganda said she felt at home on the course at Walla Walla Country Club because it reminded her of one in her native Pamplona, Spain.  That would explain why she was the picture of consistency over the three days, shooting 71-72-71 and finishing 2-under.  Murcia had great bookend scores, going 68-77-69, to be able to finish the tournament with the same 2-under 214 as her teammate.

The other two-time winner in Pac-10 play was also a Sun Devil.  Wendy Ward completed the feat in 1993 and 1995.

But the team title did stay in Arizona this year.  UofA carded a 14-over 878 to beat No. 1 UCLA by three shots for the championship.  It’s the seventh in UofA program history and the first for the Cats since 2002.

The Cats began the final day three shots behind UCLA, then fell nine strokes behind.  On the sixth hole, Margarita Ramos, Alejandra Llaneza, and Nikki Koller all posted birdies on the par-5 hole – and they rolled from there to an impressive comeback.  Llaneza shot the low round of the day for the Cats, a 1-under 71, to play a major role in overtaking the Bruins.

ASU’s Jacylyn Sweeney and UA’s Margarita Ramos were part of a five-way tie for third place.  With its sweep of the top three places, it marks the second time this season that the Devils have had three players finish in the top five.

Both teams await their seeding for the regional tournament on May 6-8, and could end up playing at any of three different sites.  The top seven teams at each regional tournament will earn a berth in the NCAA Championships My 18-21 in North Carolina.

Each team no doubt has plans to see the other at least once more this year, hopefully in Carolina.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Geoff Thurner)