No. 16 UC Davis Opens NCAA Regional Thursday

Beverly Vatananugulkit
 
Beverly Vatananugulkit
 

May 7, 2013

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NORMAN, Okla.- The 16th-ranked UC Davis women's golf team makes its first step toward a possible berth in the national finals later this month when the four-time defending Big West champion Aggies open the NCAA Central Regional at the University of Oklahoma on Thursday morning.

UC Davis, which is making its fifth team appearance at the regional championships in six seasons at the Div. I level, are seeded sixth for this weekend's 54-hole tournament which runs through Saturday. The 24 teams and six individuals will square off on the par-72, 6,298-yard Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club course. The top eight teams, and two individuals not on an advancing teams, will qualify for the NCAA Finals at the University of Georgia on May 21-24.

The Aggies will play a practice round on Wednesday beginning at 7:08 a.m. (PDT) before playing the first round with No. 10 Washington and No. 15 Arizona State on Thursday at 6:36 a.m. (PDT0, beginning in the 10th hole. The same teams will play together for Friday's second round, opening play on the first hole at 10:56 a.m. (PDT). Saturday's pairings and tee times will be determined after the second round.

For the Aggies, the return to the regional championship marks another step forward for a program that in just a short time has become one of the nation's best. First-year head coach Anna Temple brings a team to Oklahoma that features both talented veterans and newcomers. This year's appearance marks the first time that UC Davis is playing in a regional other than in the west.

Seniors Demi Runas and Amy Simanton headline the quintet and are each making the fourth straight appearances in the NCAA regional. Runas, the three-time Big West Player of the Year, and Simanton have both earned All-Big West first-team recognition each of their four years. Simanton was the league's freshman of the year at the start of her career and looks to cap it in winning fashion as well.

Sophomore Beverly Vatananugulkit, the 2012 Big West Freshman of the Year, is a two-time all-conference first-team pick who is making her second NCAA appearance. This year's freshman of the year, Andrea Wong, makes her first trip to the NCAA Championships along with freshman Betty Chen, an All-Big West honorable mention selection.

UC Davis heads into the regional with a full head of steam after dominating the Big West Championships two weeks ago at San Luis Obispo. Runas grabbed medalist honors while leading four Aggies in the top four positions. Wong finished second, Vatananugulkit was third and Simanton took fourth. Chen was close behind in 12th.

"We are really looking forward to competing in the NCAA Central Regional," Temple said. "We have been practicing really well and our team is really motivated to continue our good play this spring. This is a new course for us so it will be key to gain as much information as we can in the practice round and then just play one day at a time."

Third-ranked Duke is the top-seeded team in the Central Regional and is followed by No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 9 Florida, Washington and Arizona State in the top five.

UC Davis first appeared in the NCAA Championships during its first season of Div. I competition in 2008. The Aggies earned a spot in the field as the last at-large team selected and then stunned perennial powers Stanford and Ohio State in the regional to earn a berth in the NCAA Finals.

The Aggies, who had two individuals including eventual All-American Alice Kim participate in the 2009 regionals, returned as a team in 2011 when they finished 15th at Stanford. A tie for third at the University of Washington in 2011 resulted in another appearance in the national finals where UC Davis finished a program-best 20th at Texas A&M. The Aggies were 12th in last season's regional appearance at the University of Colorado.

UC Davis is the only school ranked in Golfstat's top 20 that is not from a BCS conference. It's been ranked among the top 16 teams for most of the season and has won two tournaments - the Golfweek Conference Challenge and the Big West Championships. Runas was medalist at both those events.

The east regional will be held at Auburn University while Stanford is hosting the west regional.