LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State women’s golf team concludes its spring schedule with a trip to Mesa, Ariz., to compete in the 2014 WAC Women’s Golf Championship, which will be played at the par-72, 6,163-yard Longbow Golf Club from Friday through Sunday, April 25-27. Three 18-hole rounds will be played for the conference championship, one round on each day.
Nine teams will be competing in Arizona, but only eight will vie for the Western Athletic Conference title. Joining the Aggies are WAC members Bakersfield, Chicago State, Idaho, Kansas City, Seattle U, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley.
Fellow WAC team Grand Canyon University will also be part of the field, but since the Antelopes are making the transition to Division I from Division II, they cannot participate in postseason play and thus cannot keep a team score. They can, however, compete individually and contend for the individual title.
With most of the WAC teams new to the conference, Idaho is the only participating school that has a WAC championship under its belt, as the Vandals won the tournament in 2007.
This is ninth season for NM State as part of the WAC and, although they have yet to bring home a conference title, the Aggies have had three second-place finishes, the last coming in 2011.
The winner of the WAC Championship will extend its season by automatically qualifying for the NCAA Regional Tournament. This might be the year that NM State moves on to the regional round as a young Aggie team is coming together and heads into the tournament playing its best golf of the season.
Head coach Jackie Booth will travel to the WAC tournament with three freshman and two sophomores, the same combination she used in NM State’s final two tournaments of the spring. Freshmen Camille Orito, Valeria Macias and Kristen Cline, along with sophomores Kacey Dalpes and Viviana Macias, have come together as a team to finish in a tie for sixth out of 15 teams at the Mountain View Classic before winning the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic to finish the regular season, the Aggies’ first tournament win in over three years.
The five underclassmen have combined to shoot NM State’s two-best total scores of the season, a 23-over 887 at the Cowgirl Classic, which gave the team a nine-shot win, and a 24-over 888 during the Mountain View.
The Aggies also shot their three low rounds of the season during the final two tournaments, a 3-over 291 in round three of the Mountain View, which is second-lowest in the WAC this season, a 6-over 294 in round three of the Cowgirl Classic and a 7-over 295 in round two of the Mountain View. The three rounds helped NM State to a conference-leading 307.22 average score per round.
Apart from their win at the Cowgirl Classic, the Aggies also had a tie for second place finish at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational and a third-place finish to kick off the season at the Hobble Creek Invitational.
Individually, Orito finished in a three-way tie for first to lead NM State at the Cowgirl Classic after shooting two rounds under par in the tournament. Her 2-under 70 during the second round tied Dalpes for the team’s low round of the season. The freshman’s 1-under 215 total score was also the Aggies’ low individual total of the year.
Orito, however, was not the only NM State golfer to finish in the top 10 of a tournament, as four of the five Aggies participating in the conference tournament have at least one top 10 finish on the season. Fellow freshman Valeria Macias finished third at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational, where she shot a season low 1-under 71 round, and fourth at the Cowgirl Classic.
Older sister Viviana finished right behind her sibling at the Rainbow Wahine, finishing in a tie for fourth. Viviana concluded the season with a 10th and tie for 10th-place finish during the Mountain View and Cowgirl Classic, respectively. In all, the older Macias heads to the WAC Championship with six-consecutive top 20 finishes. She also holds a team-leading 75.67 average score per round and has five rounds of par or better, also a team best.
Dalpes, meanwhile, who oddly enough seems like the veteran of the young team even though she has yet to complete her sophomore year, started the season with a tie for ninth finish at the Hobble Creek Invitational. She also joins Orito as the only Aggie golfer to shoot a round of 2-under-par 70 this season.
Rounding out the NM State squad is New Mexico native Cline. Although she has only participated in three tournaments this season, Cline was an integral part of the Aggies’ final two tournaments of the year and the good team finishes, including the Cowgirl Classic win. Cline’s 76.44 scoring average is second best on the team.
Denver swept the 2013 WAC Championship as the team finished at 18-over 882 while Pioneer golfer Tonje Daffinrud won at 7-under 209. NM State finished last year’s tournament in seventh place while Dalpes was the Aggies’ best finisher at 15-over 231 and in a tie for 21st place.
Former NM State golfer Demi Mak finished in a two-way tie for first place during the 2012 tournament, but was denied the WAC crown after losing on the fourth hole of a sudden death playoff to Idaho’s Kayla Mortellaro.
The Aggies will be seeking their first WAC title, but NM State does have 10 conference titles in its history, the last coming after the Aggies won three-straight Sun Belt Conference Championships, from 2001-03.
Golf fans can follow the tournament live as the WAC will make live scoring available at golfstat.com. Please follow the link provided for the golfstat live scoring home page.