No. 1 USC Extends Record Win Streak To Eight
Feb. 11, 2014
On a day when many tee shots went wide, fairway drives fell short and putts lipped out, the No. 1 USC women's golf team, cushioned by strong first and second rounds, held on to win its spring opener at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes (Calif.) G.C. on Tuesday (Feb.11) and extended its remarkable win streak to eight.
In the process, sophomore Annie Park, who, like her team, was buoyed by a big lead, also recorded her school-record tying fifth career win despite a string of five bogeys on the back 9.
The Trojans opened play with a 14-stroke lead and overcame some drama near the end of the final round to still win by seven at 14-over 866 (288-279-299) while hard-charging No. 3 Duke finished second at 21-over 873 (290-294-289). The only team better today than the Blue Devils was Arizona State, which turned in the only sub-par final round (281) to take third at 23-over 875. UCLA, which began the day 14 back of USC in second place, tied for fourth with Washington at 29-over 881.
Including its four fall wins, the Trojans have now opened the season with five straight titles. Prior to this year, they had never opened a season with consecutive victories. Before last year, USC had only won five events in a season once (2008). Now, under 18th-year coach Andrea Gaston, the Trojans have done it in back to back seasons after capturing seven wins en route to the 2013 NCAA title.
The win is USC's third at the Northrop Grumman after titles in 2010 and 2011, though the Trojans also won the 2008 Pac-10 title on the same course. Park's individual crown is Troy's second at the event, joining Irene Cho's 2006 win.
Park, who enjoyed a double-digit lead midway through the round today thanks to a 3-under front 9, "settled" for a seven-stroke victory at 6-under 207 (67-67-73). It was USC's best ever 54-hole total at the Palos Verdes G.C. (five better than Paola Moreno's 2008 Pac-10-winning total) and one off the tournament record set by LPGA star Lorena Ochoa in 2002 when she played for Arizona.
The Trojans' final tally of 866 was also a tournament record, besting Arizona's 2000 winning total by three strokes. USC secured the record despite a final round that was USC's highest since a 301 during the second round of last March's Bruin Wave Invitational.
"I'm proud of the girls for fighting through some struggles today," Gaston said. "The team didn't have its `A' game despite better playing conditions, but they battled on every hole. It was truly a team win, not just from today but from all three days. We wouldn't have won today if not for two really good rounds before it."
Senior Sophia Popov, whose team record of five career wins Park equalled today, was USC's top finisher today and finished tied for 10th at 4-over 217 (74-71-72), her third top 10 in a row. On a day when her teammates were struggling, particularly on the back 9, Popov was steady, going 1-under on the back. She was a few inches away on a number of holes from going much lower in her round.
Sophomore Kyung Kim, who started the day in second, managed to tie for 12th at 5-over 218 (70-69-79) despite her worst round as a Trojan. It was her fourth top 13 in five starts this year.
Freshman Karen Chung tied for 44th at 14-over 227 (78-74-75) and had two late birdies to help provide a buffer against the rallying Blue Devils. Junior Doris Chen tied for 49th at 15-over 228 (77-72-79). Freshman Gabriella Then, playing individually, tied for 33rd at 11-over 224 (71-75-78).