May 12, 2010

Sidebar: Coe Looks To Stay Hot

By Tom Carkeek
Special to NCAA.com

MESA, Ariz. -
It's a long way from Argentina to South Carolina, but so far it has been a pleasant trip for Maria Luz Besio.

Newberry College (S.C.) shot an even-par 71 Wednesday and held the outright lead after the first round of the NCAA Division II Women's Golf Championships at Longbow Golf Club.
   
The native Argentine, who traveled thousands of miles north to play at Newberry, started her round on the back nine. She rolled in long birdie putts on the par-3 11th hole and the par-5 15th to drop to 2-under in the early going.

Then she parred everything else -- until she reached the par-4 fifth. There she began a string of three consecutive bogeys, but she rallied with a birdie on her final hole to finish at even-par.

That gave Besio a one-shot edge over Emily Kvidera of Augustana (S.D.). Five players were tied for third at 3-over par 74.
   
Besio's key birdie putts should have been no shock coming from the player ranked 21st in Division II.
   
"Putting  is my strength," said Besio, a sophomore. "I made all the putts I had to make today."
   
The petite Besio stands just 5-foot-4, but coach Lauren Ressler says she has another weapon that allows her to compete at the highest level.

"It wasn't my coaching!" Ressler said. "She's a very smart player. We came out for the practice round and got some real good information on the course, where to hit and where not to hit.
   
"She can hit it a long way for her size, but she is really smart, and that helps a lot."
   
Besio, who has been in the U.S. for two years, said she had "never played a desert course. It's a great course. It's dry, so it rolls. It makes me a longer hitter."
   
As you might imagine, recruiting an athlete from South America to South Carolina can be daunting.
   
"I never saw her play in person," Ressler said, "but I saw her swing video. I saw her scores and talked to some people who had seen her, so I was comfortable recruiting her."
   
Besio said she was "looking for someplace not too hot and not too cold, and South Carolina was good for that. We have a great time on our team. We have girls from Germany, Norway, Spain and Colombia."
   
Besio fell just short of qualifying for last year's nationals and walked the tightrope before advancing this year.
   
"She missed nationals last year in a four-hole playoff in the regional, and she made it this year, also in a playoff," Ressler said. "She's won three tournaments this year, so I'm not surprised she was able to do what she did today."

Besio's performance might not have been surprising, but Kvidera's had to be. The freshman opened with a double bogey and a bogey, and she was 4-over at the turn.
   
But her second nine was nearly flawless. Kvidera birdied the par-4 second, the par-4 fourth and the par-3 seventh to finish within one stroke of Besio. Her final birdie was especially memorable.
   
"My tee shot landed on the fringe, and I chipped over a mound and in from about 30 feet," Kvidera said. "I just stayed relaxed and took the shots as they came."
   
As a Minnesota native who plays in South Dakota, the Arizona surroundings were somewhat of a shock to the system. Her secret?
   
"Drink a lot of water," she said. "We've had a lot of rain in the Midwest, so the ball sticks on the courses we play up there. Here it's drier, and the ball runs a lot.

"My strength is my driver. I'm not a real long hitter, but I'm accurate."
   
Sandra Changkija of Nova Southeastern (Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Fla.) led the group of five players at 3-over-par. Changkija, ranked No. 1 in Division II, was flailing with a 5-over total through 16 holes, but she eagled her 17th hole, the par-4 eighth, and closed at 74.
   
Also three shots back were 2008 national champion Joanna Coe of Rollins (Winter Park, Fla.), Elin Marcsdottir of Rollins, Abbey Gittings of Nova Southeastern and Katy Ward of Tarleton State (Stephenville, Tex.).
   
Defending team champion Nova Southeastern holds the lead in the team competition after the first round.

Besides Changkija and Gittings, Nicole Whitmore and Maria Garcia Austt both shot 4-over 75s to round out Nova Southeastern's card.

Rollins was eight shots behind at 22-over, and Tarleton State was third, another five strokes behind.

Each of the 12 squads competing in the team championships uses five golfers, but only the best four scores of that day are counted toward the team total.