FAYETTEVILLE — The 20th-ranked University of Arkansas golf team is ready for the grueling week ahead at the 2005 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships in Sunriver, Ore.
Arkansas reached its goal last week finishing as one of the top eight teams in the Central Region Championship earning the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship. The Lady’Backs have made four Regional appearances including three in a row under third-year head coach Kelley Hester.
“We’re excited to go to Sunriver,” said Hester. “I’m a little familiar with the course. We had the Mountain West Championships there when I coached at UNLV so I’m pretty familiar with the course and the area.”
The Lady Razorbacks have made significant strides in recent years under Hester’s tutelage. Arkansas added the golf program for the 1995-06 season, had finished as high as fifth at the Southeastern Conference Championship and made one Regional appearance in 1999-00.
Since Hester took over in 2002-03, Arkansas has made three consecutive post-season appearances including this first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship. In addition, Arkansas finished third this year at the SEC Championship, just one stroke away from a three-way tie for first, and had the individual winner in redshirt freshman Stacy Lewis.
Junior Amanda McCurdy has already qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open and several other players are hoping to qualify after the NCAA Championships. In addition, Arkansas has broken every record in the Lady Razorback record book since Hester’s arrival on campus.
“I wasn’t really sure what our timetable for success would be for this program,” said Hester. “We’ve progressed faster than I would have thought. The talent was here and I think it really says a lot about the team in how far they’ve come.”
Senior Gena Johnson is competing in her final event as a Lady Razorback. The Hot Springs, Ark., native has steadily improved her game since her first year and has been a solid number two or three player for Arkansas.
“Gena has steadily improved every year,” said Hester. “She has improved her game at every level and stepped up competing in one of the top two spots all spring. She’s leaving this program so much better than when she got here.”
Arkansas faces a challenging field with some of the top teams in the country including No. 1 Duke. The rest of the field includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Pepperdine, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 10 Washington, No. 11 Florida, No. 12 Tulane, No. 14 Southern California, No. 15 Furman and No. 17 Missouri. In addition, No. 22 Tulsa, No. 23 Stanford, No. 24 California, No. 28 Virginia, No. 29 UC-Irvin, No. 32 Purdue, No. 35 Texas A&M, No. 37 Michigan State and No. 38 BYU round out the field.
The event is the final collegiate event of the season for Arkansas but the Lady Razorbacks will take part in several amateur events this summer. Log on to LADYBACKS.COM for NCAA Championship results and more information about the Arkansas golf team.