The Joy of Winning
__AUSTIN, TEXAS--__It was their own fault, as New Mexico women's coach Jill Trujillo openly admitted afterward. The ultimate result, mind you, was just fine with them.
When the windy second (and final round) of the rain-shortened 35th Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational finally came to an end this afternoon it appeared Florida and New Mexico had tied for the team title, with the Gators winning a tiebreaker thanks to having the lower fifth-golfer score Wednesday at the University of Texas GC. That was the scoop after coaches conferred with one another. The Gators ate collectively outside the clubhouse as they waited to receive their hardware, while the Lobos were off to their team van thinking it just wasn't their day.
Less than a minute before the start of the award ceremony, however, Trujillo was back from the parking lot and noticed that New Mexico's score of 47-over 623 was actually one stroke better than Florida's 624. Rather than a tie/loss situation, it was a win/win at the tournament officials were about to announce to those who remained for the presentation. The coach in her first full year at UNM ran back to the parking lot, literally, got her team--now dressed in street clothes--to be on hand to get their first-place trophy.
"Apparently we don't know how second grade math works," Trujillo said afterward, who still wasn't sure exactly where the team had made its mistake in figuring out their team score. "We didn't add things up right."
As surprised as New Mexico was, so were the Gators. Florida women's coach Jill Briles-Hinton handled the miscommunication with grace. The scoreboard is ultimately the official result, she explained. Yet another reason why this woman deserves serious consideration for women's national coach of the year. Briles-Hinton set a tremendous example for her team, even if it was painful--and awkward--award ceremony.
What made this whole thing interesting, in my mind, was watching the Lobos come to the ceremony and learn they actually had won. You forget sometimes how exciting this can be, how meaningful a victory is to these college kids--Britney Choy (third place individually), Mikaela Backstedt (T-4), Alexandra Phelps (T-4), Jodi Ewart (T-18) and Morgan Grantham (T-68). It was the team's first win of the season and sets the 25th ranked team in the latest Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll up well for the upcoming postseason.
The Lobos, as did the entire field, had to deal with some incredible rain Tuesday that saw the second round begin, but not end as play was cancelled and the second round had a Wednesday restart. While skies were sunny, the conditions were still brutal with the winds of 25 to 30 mph creating incredibly trying conditions: The day's low score was a four-over 76 from Florida's Whitney Myers and Kansas State's Michelle Regan, and just 15 of 90 rounds were in the 70s.
Individually, Arkansas senior Stacy Lewis' 77 on the day and seven-over 151 total was enough to secure medalist honors. Perhaps no one was more surprised by the fact than Lewis herself. "When I was out there I didn't think it was playing all that hard," said Lewis, who also won this event as a redshirt freshman in 2005. "I was sure that somebody was shooting somewhere around par."
Playing in a shotgun format, Lewis made a six-foot birdie on her final hole (No. 3), while Myers, the eventual runner-up at eight-over 152, made a bogey on her last hole (No. 18).
The victory was Lewis' 10th of her standout college career, and yet she too demonstrated that winning is still pretty special, even if you've gotten the knack of it. "It's a nice feeling when your game isn't at its best and you can still win," Lewis said. "It's a pretty neat to know you can do that."