UA women’s golf ranked No. 5 and off to strong 2010 start

The University of Arizona women’s golf team is picking up right where it left off last season, with a win in Japan and a second-place finish over the weekend in Colorado.

And a local high school grad is right up front in the charge into a new season.

Margarita Ramos, who played four years of varsity golf on one of the best high school teams in Arizona, helped the Wildcats win the Pac-10 championship and the NCAA West Regional last season.  This season, the Xavier Prep (Phoenix) graduate traveled to Tanagura, Japan, with the squad to open their 2010 season.  The team came back with a seven-stroke victory in the Topy Cup, and gave the players a chance to compete against some of the best collegiate players in Japan.

Ramos, a Mexican national champion, is a junior this year and playing with a team that is pretty much intact from last year’s squad, which finished seventh at the NCAA Championships – the best finish for a Wildcat team since 2003.

The Cats are ranked No. 5 nationally as this season gets underway, following their top-five finish at the NCAA National Championship last May.  The program, under first-year head coach Laura Ianello, is working its way back into the national spotlight.  Ianello, who was elevated from her role as assistant coach, was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year after last season.

This past weekend, the squad wrapped up a second-place finish at the Golfweek Women’s Conference Challenge in Vail, Colo.  Senior Alejandra Llaneza led the UofA golfers, finishing in sixth place with a total 218 for the 54 holes of the event.  Ramos was right behind in seventh place, shooting a one-under 71 in the final round to round out a 219 total.

Ramos carded a 70 in the opening round to lead her team to a third-place start, positioned to start the second round one shot off the tournament leader.  But a second-round total of 78, six over par, dropped her into a tie for 13th.

Arizona got significant contributions from all of its team members, as four of them finished in the top 30 and all five in the top 46.  Junior Isabelle Boineau was the next Cat in line behind Ramos’ seventh-place finish, carding a 221 score for 11th place.  Sophomore Sherlyn Popelka had a three-day total of 227 to finish in a tie for 30th, and Nikki Koller tied for 46th with a round of 231.

Boineau earned the individual medal at the Topy Cup, carding a two-under 214.

The women’s team posted three wins during the 2009-10 season, and the win at the Topy Cup to open this season was the third victory in four events.

Sandwiched between the Topy Cup and the Golfweek event, the Cats sent select members of the squad to play in the Sept. 20 Hilton Garden Inn Mountain Shootout in Flagstaff.  Freshman Haley Andreas topped the group with a second-place finish with a two-round total of 149, just three strokes behind the winner, Brittany Penny of Grand Canyon University.

The Cats travel next to Nevada to participate in the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown, Oct. 25-27.