__SORRENTO, FLA.--__You couldn't get rid of the smile on the face of Arizona State senior Azahara Munoz as she walked around the practice range at Red Tail GC, preparing to play for the top-ranked Sun Devils in the UCF Challenge. While having only missed two tournaments this spring following surgery Jan. 22 to remove a cyst from her right wrist, the defending NCAA individual champion hadn't played in an event since the end of October, the longest stretch of time off from the game since she began playing in earnest.
"Originally, they thought it was only going to be four weeks, but it turned into six," Munoz said, the impatience in her voice rather obvious. "It's my last semester. I just don't want to miss anything."
The wrist remains sore, and Munoz continues to undergo ultrasound treatments to help regain mobility that has been inhibited by scar tissue. Still, except for the ice bag she carried after the round you wouldn't have noticed anything was amiss Sunday, the 21-year-old Spaniard posting an even-par 72 to place T-23 after 18 holes, six strokes back of leader Jessica Yadloczky of Florida. (In the team competition, UCLA's six-under 282 gave the Bruins a two-stroke lead over ASU through Day 1.)
"The last two weeks she's really made a lot of improvement," said ASU coach Melissa Luellen, Munoz' practice regime finally including full swings within the last 10 days. "She knows she can play through some of the pain. But it broke her heart not to travel to Mexico [for last week's Arizona Wildcat Invitational]."
It wasn't just her own return that Munoz was happy about. Accompanying the Sun Devils to Florida was Missy Farr-Kaye, the team's associate head coach who was traveling to her first tournament of the 2008-09 season after undergoing treatment last fall for a recurrence of breast cancer.
"The hair is coming back, although I've still got to wear a cap," Farr-Kaye said with a laugh, two weeks removed from having finished seven weeks of radiation therapy.
Farr-Kaye had first been diagnosed with cancer in 1998. Her sister, former ASU All-American Heather Farr, died from the disease in 1993.
"I'm not 100 percent just yet, but I'm feeling much better," Farr-Kaye said. "I'm very optimistic about the future."