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Denise Maloof | | May 21, 2014

UNLV's Finkelstein hits a hole-in-one during tropical storm

TULSA, Okla. -- A hole-in-one in a hurricane?

That’s exactly what UNLV’s Dana Finkelstein accomplished during Tuesday’s first round of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship — a career milestone in the midst of a tropical storm.

Well, not really. Bright midwestern sunshine and a few hazy clouds belied the day’s swirling, 20-30 mile-per-hour winds. But Finkelstein, a junior from Chandler, Ariz., required only one swing on Tulsa Country Club’s par-3 No. 6.

"I hit a little 5-wood and knocked it down into the wind,” Finkelstein said of her tee shot. “It was going right at it, took a couple bounces and disappeared into the hole. At first I thought it was over (the green). I didn’t think it was in. Then someone behind the green threw their hands up and it was in the hole.”

The feat was a first for Finkelstein, the NCAA Central Region runner-up who had qualified for the Division I individual championship. Playing with two other individual qualifiers — early-round co-leader Tonje Daffinrud of Denver and East Tennessee State’s Gabriella Wahl — and trailed by her own UNLV head coach, Amy Bush-Herser, Finkelstein required a second to process what had happened.

“I was just kind of shocked,” she said. “I dropped my club on the ground and hugged my coach. It was a cool experience.”

So were the congratulatory high-fives she received from Daffinrud and Wahl, and from other people clustered around the No. 6 tee box.

“There was actually a lot of people around because the tee was so backed up,” Finkelstein said. “There were people around the green — 15 or 20 people and a group behind us.

“Quite a few high-fives, so that was nice.”

Quite a strike, too. Tulsa Country Club’s No. 6 faces south. That meant players stared directly into a near-gale-force, southeast wind as they stood on the slightly elevated tee, looking down toward the green.

Nicknamed “Kennedy Pond," the layout carries drives over Kennedy Pond, a treacherous slice of water between tee box and green. On Tuesday, the wind blew shower sprays from the spillover behind the No. 6 green.

“It was really tough out there,” Finkelstein said. “I can’t believe how windy it was. It was a really good shot, so I’ll take it.” 

Finkelstein nestled the hole-in-one ball in her bag; it’s destined for a commemorative shelf or other treasured container. Later, Kansas Associate Athletic Director Teresa Becker, chair of the NCAA’s Division I Women’s Golf Committee, presented Finkelstein with a pin flag.

“I have a bunch of messages on my phone so I’ll probably take care of that first,” Finkelstein said of immediate aftermath. “Gotta get back focused and get a better round tomorrow.”

As Division I’s sixth-ranked player, she wasn’t happy with Tuesday’s five-over-par 75. The hole-in-one came near the end of her opening round — her threesome started on No. 10 — and quieted some personal irritation.

“It was like an adrenalines rush,” Finkelstein said. “It really helped my round. I had made two bogeys before that and it kind of got me refocused, and I par-ed the next one. It was a good feeling.”