BANDON, Ore.—National championships are something the players on the UCLA women's golf team are familiar with of late, the squad having claimed the NCAA team title last month at The Traditions Club in College Station, Texas. Perhaps then it's no surprise to see a few Bruins advancing into the match-play portion of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, among the 13 national championships the USGA conducts.
But five players from the same school?
"We were laughing about it," said Tiffany Lua. "It almost feels like a team tournament."
Along with Lua, __Brianna Do__,__Stephanie Kono__,__Lee Lopez__ and __Ani Gulugian__ each made it out of the 156-player stroke-play qualifier Tuesday. When the results were known, the fivesome exchanged text messages and well wishes among each other.
"[At the start of the tournament] we were like, 'Ok, now let's go make match play," Do said. "And we made it. Then we were like, 'OK, lets hope we don't play each other until later."
"I trust them more than anyone," Kono noted. "We share a lot of things with each other. I'm sure they know a lot of things about me that they don't want to know. But I feel I can be myself around them, which helps and makes me feel comfortable on and off the course."
Their friendship took on a new dimension at the end of the college season. As the team prepared for the NCAA Championship, the players collectively decided to create a "team bucket list" of things they wanted to do before finishing school. They range for the understandable (latin dancing) to the intriguing (a road trip, sans golf) to the unusual (attend a movie premier in Los Angeles).
And then there's the goofy, like wrapping a teammate's car in saran wrap. The victim? Lopez.
While their friendship extends beyond the course, the group has another side that helps explain their solid play.
"It doesn't matter whether we're having a pool game against each other or a chipping contest, every single girl on our team is competitive," Lopez said. "We're supportive but we're also competitive and I think we really make each other better."
They're also experienced, Kono and Lua in particular. This is Kono's eighth time participating in the WAPL, having made match play all eight times, and her 21st USGA event (including Women's Opens and Curtis Cup). Not bad for a 21 years old.
Similarly, the 19-year-old Lua is also playing her 21st USGA event overall. In 17 individual amateur championships, she has never failed to get into the match-play bracket.
Of course advancing to match play doesn't ensure a long and successful week in the championship. Three of the players were victorious in the first round: Do defeated Kristen Park, 4 and 3; Kono beating__Gianna Misenhelter__, 1 up (to improve her WAPL record to 16-7 and her overall match-play record to 30-16); and Lua beating Ciera Min, 2 up.
For full WAPL first-round results, > click here.>
Gulugian lost to Lauren Cate, 3 and 1, while Lopez fell to__Kelsey Chugg__ in 20 holes. Lopez' defeat, however, can be avenged as Chugg will face Do in the second round on Thursday.