Conference tourneys capping long college golf season

Is it any surprise that college golf teams do well in the state of Arizona?

More than 400 golf courses ooze out of every pore of the state, they’re open year-round, and you’ve got eight months a year with average temperatures of 88 degrees or less to get in plenty of practice.

The results at the college level?  The women’s team at University of Arizona is ranked eighth in the nation, and recently was as high as No. 6, and Arizona State‘s women’s team is No. 11.  In Division II, the Grand Canyon University women’s team just jumped from eighth to sixth.

All three schools are on the closing drive of a long season that began back in September.  ASU and UofA will wrap up with the Pac-10 Women’s Golf Championships next weekend.  GCU heads to Texas this weekend to participate in the Coca-Cola Collegiate Tournament to prepare for the May 1 NCAA West Super Regional.

And the women’s team at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff isn’t nationally ranked, but one of their athletes just picked up the top honor in the Big Sky Conference.  (NAU doesn’t carry a men’s team)

Stephanie Kim, a graduate of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, was just named the Big Sky Conference Golf Player of the Year – for the second straight year.  The sophomore will take a scoring average of 75.19 strokes per round into the Big Sky Championship next week to defend her 2010 conference crown.

The ASU and UofA squads got a chance last weekend to test their games against some of the better teams in the country in the PING/ASU Invitational, which the Sun Devils hosted at Karsten Golf Course.

Arizona finished the three-day event in third place, behind No. 3 UCLA and No. 1 USC.  Arizona State had to settle for a seventh-place finish.

Neither team showed the kind of play they will need next week when both return to the Karsten Course to compete in the Pac-10 Championships.  Arizona’s total for the three rounds was 878, which was 14-over and 13 strokes behind UCLA’s winning 863.  ASU shot a 26-over 890.

The Devils’ outstanding junior, Carlota Ciganda, will be there to defend her two consecutive Pac-10 titles.  When she won her 2010 title, she became the first golfer to win consecutive championships.

Grand Canyon is coming off a second-place finish at the just-completed GCU Invitational and will be led into the Coca-Cola tourney on Monday by Brittany Penny, a graduate of Centennial High School in Peoria.  The junior has finished in the top 10 in eight of 10 contests this season and has climbed to a No. 10 individual national ranking.

It’s been a long road from September to April, down a lot of winding fairways across the country.  But the final reward is finally in sight.

(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)