May 20, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. - The 17th-ranked UC Davis women's golf team makes its first return to the NCAA Div. I Championship finals since 2011 when the Aggies open play on Tuesday at the University of Georgia Golf Course.
The 17th-ranked Aggies have only been a Div. I program since the 2007-08 season but have already established themselves as a national power after visiting the finals in their inaugural season as well as 2011. UC Davis has been to the NCAA Regionals five times but has been represented all six seasons as either a team or with individuals.
The four-time defending Big West Conference champions qualified for this week's tournament with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Central Regional at the University of Oklahoma almost two weeks ago.
This week they'll square off in a field comprised of 24 teams as well as six individuals. They'll play 18 holes each day from Tuesday through Friday at the par-72, 6,372-yard course. The championship is the only 72-hole tournament this season.
UC Davis will use the same quintet that captured the Big West title and then advanced from the regional. Seniors Demi Runas and Amy Simanton are veterans of postseason competition and are in the NCAA Championships for the fourth consecutive year. They'll be joined by sophomore Beverly Vatananugulkit and freshmen Betty Chen and Andrea Wong.
"It's always an amazing opportunity to compete for a national championship," said first-year head coach Anna Temple. "Our team has worked hard all year and it is great to see it all come together. it will be an exciting week of golf with 23 other great teams in this field.
"The University of Georgia's golf course is spectacular," she added. "Our length will really be an asset for us this week, especially if the wet conditions continue."
Isolated thunderstorms are forecast for Monday's practice round and the first round on Tuesday. Scattered thunderstorms and more isolated thunderstorms are predicted for Thursday and Friday, respectively.
UC Davis will open Tuesday's competition in the morning wave of players. It'll tee off on the first hole beginning at 5:39 a.m. (PDT) and will play with No. 9 Arizona and No. 24 Northwestern.
Runas has a team-best 72.4 scoring average and is the winner of two individual titles. She won the Golfweek Conference Challenge in the fall and then captured the Big West title in April en route to her third straight Big West Player of the Year honor. She's ranked 16th nationally.
Simanton, who was fourth at the Big West Tournament, has five top-10 finishes this year. Vatananugulkit, who flirted with the lead in her last two events, is averaging 74.2 strokes. Chen tied for 11th at the NCAA Central Region, best on the team, while Wong was named the Big West Freshman of the Year after finishing second at the conference tournament.
The Aggies made their last appearance at the NCAA Finals in 2011, finishing a program-best 20th at the tournament hosted by Texas A&M. Simanton led the way for UC Davis, finishing 5 over and in a tie for 15th place. She and Runas, both four-time All-Big West first-team honorees, are making their second NCAA Finals appearance.