An opportunistic ASU women’s golf team heads to Tennessee this weekend to compete in a titanic clash between the new-look Pac-12 and the SEC.
The Pac-12/SEC Challenge will prove which conference is the best in women’s collegiate golf. 12 of the top 16 teams in the nation according to golfweek.com will be competing in what looks to be one of the toughest fields assembled this year.
Traditionally the Pac-12 is known for its three heavyweights, UCLA, USC and ASU, and the SEC is known for its depth. However, for now the tides have turned, and while No. 5 Alabama, No. 2 Auburn and No. 3 LSU have been dominant, the Pac-12 brings unmatched equality and eight teams in the top 25.
No. 14 Oregon and No. 11 Washington made statements last week, finishing third and fourth respectively in the Stanford Intercollegiate.
“Those teams have not finished that high in years,” coach Melissa Luellen said, “I think our conference is going to go in there and do extremely well. I certainly expect our conference to walk away with the trophy.”
No. 9 ASU, whose goal is to finish in the top five, starts out with a difficult group, teeing off against Auburn and No. 28 Kentucky, with Oregon as the other Pac-12 team.
Leading the way for ASU will be the talented twosome of No. 10 Giulia Molinaro and Justine Lee, who have logged five top-15 finishes in three tournaments this year.
Molinaro is the reigning Pac-12 Women’s Golfer of the Month and if she can get a win in this tournament, she could really cement herself in the national title conversation.
“It’s all the things that (assistant coach Missy Farr-Kaye) and I say. The girls get tired of hearing (them), but she has really applied it,” Luellen said.
This will be the second time that Molinaro and the team make the trip to Tennessee after competing in the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview. In that tournament Lee had arguably the best tournament of her career, with an eighth-place showing in a simulated NCAA Championship field.
In this tournament there will be an added element: the cold. That would normally spell problems for a team from the desert, but Luellen is certain the team will handle it.
“We have a menagerie of clothing options for cold weather,” Luellen said, “My view is that 90 percent of it is attitude. I don’t want to hear complaining. I don’t want to hear anybody say it is cold because guess what? That’s a statement of the obvious.”
“If you feel like ‘oh it’s too cold I don’t want to play.’ If that’s the attitude that we take on, then we may as well not go tee it up, because we just beat ourselves.”
On the other side of this daunting task lies a two-and-a-half month break for ASU. While a couple of players will be playing in tournaments elsewhere, Luellen says that it is one of her favorite times of the season because of the amount of time she will be able to work with the players.
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