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Blasberg shines while team slips due to rain

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Freshman Erica Blasberg putts yesterday at the Wildcat Invitational. Her short game helped her claim her second title.
By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 27, 2003

Freshman wins individual title as team disappoints in lone home tournament

The women's golf team came into this week's Arizona Invitational not only as host, but as the clear favorite to run through the field.

Those lofty expectations were pushed aside when harsh weather and erratic play turned the week into a disappointment for the nation's No. 1 team.

The tournament was a success in one aspect: Erica Blasberg, the second-ranked player in the nation, won her second individual title of the year with three solid rounds (69, 73, 68 = 210) at the Arizona National Golf Club.

The only thing that seemed to rattle Blasberg didn't come on the golf course, but earlier yesterday morning.

"I woke up and looked at the phone and thought it said 5:15, so I grabbed my stuff, ran outside and started driving to the golf course. No golfers were inside eating breakfast, and nobody was on the roads, but I guess I was still partially asleep. When I reached the front gate, I looked at the clock and realized it was two in the morning," Blasberg said with a smile.

"That's just Erica doing an Erica thing," head coach Greg Allen said with a big grin.

The day started out the same as Tuesday's round, but Blasberg held it together throughout the round, and a birdie on her final hole, the 340 yard par-4 seventh, put an exclamation mark on a week that was only bright for the freshman Wildcat.

"My short game was awesome, but I didn't putt very well." Blasberg said, "I kept leaving all of my putts short."

Even with Blasberg's lag putting a little off, she was solid from five feet in all day, and it showed when she carded a 3-under par final round.

After a disappointing finish Tuesday, Blasberg worked her kinks out on the range and came out yesterday with high hopes. She rebounded, posting a bogey-free round.

It seems that Erica was all that Allen could smile about, with his team taking ninth place, its worst finish of the year.

"It's disappointing we did this one our home course, but one golf tournament isn't going to make or break our year," Allen said.

The statement the team is living by all year is that they want to peak at the right time, and with this tournament so early in the spring season, Allen said the team only looks to improve from it.

"We've learned a lot about ourselves this week," Allen said. "In the long run this will make us better as a team. This won't keep us from our goals."

The optimism continued with the play of freshman Cassandra Kirkland, who finished in a tie for 19th in the first collegiate event of her career.

The Paris native played three impressive rounds and the head coach had nothing but positive things to say about her breakout performance.

"Before Christmas, she was struggling with her game, and then when she got back from break, we got her some new clubs and she just kept improving," Allen said. "Her (first round) 72 shows how hard work pays off."

The team will have a chance to bounce back in two weeks at the Dr. Thompson Rainbow Invitational in Hawaii. They will be without Blasberg who will be playing in the LPGA Welch's/Fry Championship in Tucson.

From the Bunker

Pepperdine came away with the win after three consistent rounds and four of their players finishing in the top 10 Mikaela Parmlid from USC shot a final round 5-under par 66 to jump herself all the way to second place, and walked away with the best round of the week Blasberg was the only player to finish in the red with a score under par.

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