May 7, 2005
LAS CRUCES, N.M.- For the first time in school history, the ninth-ranked Lady Volunteer golf team has qualified for consecutive NCAA Championships. Tennessee fired the second-lowest round in program history at Regional Play (288) to surge to a first-place tie with defending national champion UCLA and claim a share of the NCAA West Regional crown. It was a record-setting day for the orange-clad golfers on Saturday, as they brought home the first Regional title in school history. Additionally, the team total of 889 is seven strokes better than the previous mark at Regional play while Violeta Retamoza's individual score of 217 toppled the school standard in the event en route to a second-place finish.
"I am really pleased with the way the team played today," said Lady Vol Head Coach Judi Pavon. "We wanted to go out relaxed today and I think we had a good pairing to do that because we know the USC and Georgia golfers really well. I just said 'there was room for all of us to make it so relax.' They got off to such a great start, so it (qualifying for nationals) really became a non issue. It's too bad we didn't finish a little bit better because we really would have came out on top, but that is just an afterthought. Just making it (to Nationals) was the number one thing."
UT had entered the final round of play in second place, six shots in back of No. 16 Southern California, but also only four in front of No. 7 Oklahoma State and Oregon, who were tied for seventh. The Orange and White quickly erased any doubts of whether they would finish in the top eight, as they made the turn at five-under-par to surge into first place. For the rest of the day, the Lady Vols would remain atop the leaderboard. On the back nine, the winds picked up which pushed scores up a bit, but Pavon's squad played steady golf. On the 18th, Retamoza buried a par putt to preserve the tie with the Bruins.
On the historic day, UT was led by Retamoza, an Aguascalientes, Mexico, native. The Southeastern Conference Golfer of the Year posted a one-below-par 71, the fourth-lowest closing round in the Lady Vols' 13 years of competition at the Regionals. The junior opened play by making a birdie on the first and then another on the fourth to move to two-under par. A bogey on the ninth dropped her to one-under-par as she made the turn. She would get as low as four-below-par on the day, following an impressive chip-in on the 11th hole from about 15 yards out , and an eagle on the par five-12th. Three consecutive bogeys from holes 15 through 17 would bring Retamoza back to one-below-par, but the three-time first-team All-SEC selection would not be rattled heading to 18th.
"We are very happy. We played very well." said Retamoza. "We went out there and knew what we had to do and we did it. We are satisfied, but we are not surprised because this is what we came to do."
Senior Jessica Shepley (Oakville, Ontario) rebounded from an 80 during the second round with a solid even-par score of 72. The captain stepped up when UT needed her most as she made par or better on the front nine to turn at two-below. On the back nine, Shepley played smart golf in the gusting wind and poured in a clutch par putt on the 18th to help Tennessee earn a share of the title. The three-day total of 224 is the third best by a senior at the Regionals and is also a personal-best at the tournament. Shepley, who began the day in deadlocked for 32nd, ascended into a tie for 14th.
"Obviously we are very excited, we came here to win, not just to qualify, and we did both," said Shepley. "This is why I came to Tennessee. I knew that the program was capable of competing at the national level year-in-and year-out so I'm very excited that we are heading back to Nationals."
Golda Johansson (Lund, Sweden) focused in for the final round to also fire an even-par 72, following the first two days in which she tallied scores of 77 and 79, respectively. The junior bogeyed the first hole of the day, but birdies on the fourth, seventh and ninth allowed her to make the turn at two-below-par. On the back nine, Johansson's play remained crisp, as she made par in seven of the holes. She concluded the event with a tournament total of 228, two off her collegiate best at the Regionals and claimed a 35th-place tie.
Freshman Marci Turner (Tompkinsville, Ky.), who had a challenging round on Friday, battled back with a one-above-par effort of 73 to conclude the event with a score of 224. It is the third lowest tally by a UT freshman at the Regionals. The 2003 Miss Kentucky was extremely consistent on the high-pressure final round, making par or better on 14 of the holes. She poured in birdies on the fourth, 12th and 13th to minimize the effects of bogeys on the ninth, 15th, 16th and 18th. Turner joined Shepley in 14th, after starting the day in a stalemate for 24th.
Sarah Bonner-Shanks (Kingsport, Tenn.) performed admirably as well for the Big Orange on the last day. Following the front nine, which she played at four-above-par, the senior settled in down the stretch. She posted four pars and two birdies to cut two strokes off her score and finish the day at 78. For the third straight day she proved her mental toughness as she responded to a double bogey with a birdie and a par to conclude the Regional with a total of 231. Bonner-Shanks notched a 48th-place tie.
The impressive effort over three days allowed UT to finish ahead of 19 other squads, eight of which were ranked. (No.5 Georgia, No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Southern Cal, No. 17 Arizona, No. 23 Washington State, No. 24 Stanford and No. 25 Cal). This year's field also featured four of the last five national champions, including the 2004 champion (UCLA) and runner-up (Oklahoma State.) It continues what has been a tremendous year for the Orange and White, as it is the ninth top-five finish in 10 tournaments on the year.
UT will return to action from May 17-20 where they will battle 23 other squads for the National Championship in Sunriver, Ore.
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