AZ golfers play through Carolina weather at NCAA tourney

A couple of youngsters played their way through heavy rain, strong winds, and lightning to keep their Arizona colleges in the hunt for the women’s NCAA golf championship.

Jennifer Johnson, a freshman at Arizona State, sits atop the leader board at 7-under 137 after two rounds at the national event in Wilmington, N.C.  And her team sits in fifth place.

Margarita Ramos, a sophomore at University of Arizona, is 4-under and tied for third place.  The Wildcats are right behind ASU, in sixth place.

Neither school is out of contention, but USC has taken a commanding lead going into the third round.  ASU is 11 shots behind the Trojans, who are the only team with a sub-par total, and Arizona is 12 back.

Weather conditions on the Pete Dye Course at the Country Club of Landfall were so bad for the second round that five teams were forced to suspend play and finish the round this morning.  Everyone played through strong and unpredictable winds and had to wait more than once for lightning delays.

Johnson opened play with three birdies on the front nine for a sizzling 67 in the first round and then came back on Wednesday to card a 70 and hold the lead.  But USC’s Jennifer Song is just one stroke behind.

Ramos shot a 3-under par 69 on the second round to follow her opening round of 71, so she also moves into today’s play on a roll.  This is the third time this season that Ramos has posted consecutive subpar rounds in a tournament.

The Wildcats actually cut into USC’s lead in yesterday’s play, pulling up from 14 back to 12 shots off the lead.  The Cats carded the only sub-par team score of the day.

But the Sun Devils’ fortunes were moving in the opposite direction.  They were just six strokes off the pace in the first round, and fell to 11 back in the second round.

ASU’s slippage can be traced to a single hole.

As if the rain didn’t provide enough water problems, the Devils found it difficult avoiding the water hazard on the par-3 second hole.  Three of their players hit into the water, resulting in two triple bogeys and one double bogey.

After Johnson and Ramos, you have to look pretty far down the leader board before another Arizona golfer appears.  UA’s Nikki Koller and ASU’s Juliana Murcia are among a group tied for 29th at 3-over par.

The Pac-10 has dominated the national championship in recent years, with USC, ASU, UA, and UCLA combining to win 11 of the last 17 team titles.  Duke and Georgia pretty much filled in the off-years.

But this year, Alabama and Purdue are trying to break into the club.  Alabama is in second place at +1 and Purdue is in third, one stroke behind the Tide.

Today’s round should be interesting.  It will pair ASU, UA, and UCLA.

If the weather holds and they all play nice, maybe they can slip past the party crashers, Alabama and Purdue.