May 22, 2009

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Top-ranked Arizona State put three players among the top-15 overall and posted a 3-over par 291 for the second-straight day and finished with a 72-hole score of 30-over par 1182 to win the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship at Caves Valley Golf Course on Friday. It was Arizona State's seventh NCAA Championship in women's golf and the program's first since 1998.

UCLA shot a 9-over par 297 in the final round to finish in second place at 38-over par 1190, while Southern California struggled in the final round with a 13-over par 301 and finished in third place at 39-over par 1191. Oklahoma State entered the final round in seventh place, but fired the best round of the tournament - a 2-over par 290 - and finished in fourth place at 47-over par 1199. Denver, the first round leader after a 6-over par 294, rounded out the top-five, finishing at 64-over par 1206.

"It's almost relief. We started tough after the first two days and the resolve and the determination and the talent of these players just came through," Arizona State Head Coach Melissa Luellen said on the 18th green as her team celebrated its win. "I really feel like the best team won.

The Sun Devils, the No. 1 team in the Golfweek rankings, were tied for fifth place after shooting a 14-over par 302 in the first round, but drew closer to the lead each day. A 10-over par 298 in the second round moved them into a tie for fourth place and the best round of the tournament to that point, a 3-over par 291, moved them to second place after the third round, one stroke behind Southern California.

"I felt like we had momentum from yesterday because we played really solid," Luellen said. "You get some momentum and you keep it going. They just decided to leave everything out there and just played hard. This was a true team effort. Our senior, Aza Munoz who wanted to defend her title, started out with a 78, but the way she played these last three days was the mark of a champion."

Azahara Munoz, the 2008 NCAA Champion, carded an even-par 72 in the final round - her third-straight score of even- or under-par - and finished in a tie for fourth place to lead Arizona State. Freshman Carlota Ciganda and sophomore Jaclyn Sweeney tied for 11th place at 9-over par 297, while senior Jennifer Osborn tied for 21st place with an 11-over par 299 and junior Juliana Murcia tied for 32nd place at 14-over par 302.

Top individual honors went to Purdue senior Maria Hernandez, who fired a 1-under par 71 and finished with a four-day total of 1-over par 289 to top the field of 126 golfers. Hernandez was one stroke behind as the final group hit the 18th green, but Southern California freshman Jennifer Song finished with a double bogey to place second at 2-over par 290. Oklahoma State senior Pernilla Lindberg fired a 3-under par 69 in the final round and finished in third place at 3-over par 291.

"I don't think I believe it right now," Hernandez said afterward. "It was just kind of surprising really. I knew today that I had to go all out. I had a really rough start, but I've been playing good golf the entire week. I've not been scoring as well as I should.

"I finished pretty well today, but that putt for birdie on 18 I thought was right there, but it didn't go in. I'm lucky."