Travel-Weary Lady'Backs Begin NCAA Play

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' first trip to the NCAA Women's Golf Championships did not get off to the best of starts.

The Lady Razorbacks, the eighth-seeded team from the Central Regional, needed 18 hours to arrive at Sunriver, Ore., site of the NCAA Tournament which begins today.

"The girls' flight on United Airlines got canceled, and they ended up having to fly to Portland," said UA women's golf coach Kelley Hester. "I was already out here for an awards committee meeting, so I drove four hours to pick the team up and another four hours back to Sunriver."

The luggage of UA junior Lindsey Hinshaw got lost, and her golf clubs didn't arrive until 10 minutes before Arkansas' practice round on Sunday.

"We figure things can only get better from here," Hester said.

The Lady Razorbacks are ranked 20th by Golfweek, but Hester said, "If we fire on all cylinders, I fully expect us to be up there toward the Top 10."

Duke is ranked first, despite having finished second in the East Regional for its first loss of the spring. Unbeaten UCLA is ranked second among the 24 teams and Auburn is third.

Arkansas will be paired today with players from No. 10 Stanford and No. 23 Washington. Stanford finished eighth in the West Regional, while Washington was shipped to the East Regional and also finished eighth.

Courtney Mahon, a junior from Topeka, Kan., led the Lady'Backs in the Central Regional, after freshman Stacy Lewis of The Woodlands, Texas, had paced the team most of the season.

Amanda McCurdy, a UA junior from El Dorado who had an up-and-down season after placing second in the U.S. Women's Amateur last summer, rallied a bit in the third round at Regionals.

"Amanda felt good about some changes she made before the last round, and played better on the third day," Hester said.

But after seeing The Sunriver Resort Meadows Course, Hester said it perhaps favors straighter drivers like Mahon and Lewis.

"The course is pretty tight, and they've cut in the fairways," Hester noted. "They've had a lot of rain, so the rough is high. Shauna Estes (UA assistant) and I were saying we think Courtney could really do well here. The course sets up well for her, because she's very accurate off the tee."

Mahon spent Thursday of last week watching former Razorbacks Craig Lile and Andrew Dahl competing in the Rheem Classic at Fort Smith.

The 90-degree weather that day was a far cry from what the Lady'Backs found in Oregon.

"It was cold and rainy, in the 50s, on Sunday," Hester reported. "But that meant the greens were receptive."

Hester added, "That should also favor Courtney. She's been extremely focused lately, in practice and tournaments."

Lewis has been sensational this year, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors after winning the league tournament by six strokes.

Diana Ramage of Auburn won individual honors at the Central Regional in Lubbock, Texas, with scores of 68-77-67 for 212, while Arizona State freshman Louise Stahle, the National Freshman of the Year, was second at 219.

Mahon totaled 229, followed closely on the Lady'Backs by Lewis at 230, Hinshaw at 231 and McCurdy and Gena Johnson at 232 each.

The same UA quintet is entered at Sunriver.

"I think scores will be low," Hester said. "The course is very straightforward -- not tricked up. There's not much water, but the course is well-bunkered. You have to drive the ball straight. I think the rough will be the key."

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