By Jake Lourim, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 18, 2014
Nearly four months have passed since the Michigan women’s golf team’s last tournament. But when the Wolverines got off the plane in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, the results were largely the same as last fall.
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Freshman Grace Choi was the team’s top scorer with a career-high 54-hole 224, but Michigan finished 13th out of 15 at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, which ran Monday through Wednesday.
No. 8 Arkansas won the event with a score of 867, 14 strokes ahead of second place. The Wolverines edged out 14th-place Missouri by three and last-place TCU by four. Six top-25 teams competed in the event.
Michigan slipped with a second-round 307, which tied for last on the round. Its best day was the first, when it scored 304.
Still, first-year coach Jan Dowling found improvements in the Wolverines’ game from the fall. Choi worked in a couple of technical changes, and according to Dowling, sophomore Catherine Peters had more birdies than in the entire fall season after working on her putting over the winter.
“Every individual had some different aspects of their game that they were working on,” Dowling said. “One of the hardest things to do in competitive golf is actually implement that change in the heat of the competition. They were able to successfully do that their first tournament of the spring.”
Added Choi: “It’s a different mindset you have to get into. You have to kind of expect going out there that you’re not going to hit every shot perfect, not going to hit every putt perfect. We’re going to try to get all of our technical stuff down, and I felt really good about my technique.”
Once the first round started, Choi was locked in with help from Dowling.
Choi shot a plus-1 73 on each of the first two days, hanging around the top 15 through Tuesday. That score tied for ninth in the tournament on the first day and tied for 16th on the second. Choi struggled on the third day, though, with a plus-6 78 that brought her down to a tie for 24th.
For Choi, the highlight of the week occurred after she landed a drive behind two palm trees 135 yards away from an elevated green. She then snuck a 5-iron shot around more palm trees 135 yards away from the hole before sinking the 30-foot birdie putt.
Peters shot consistently, scoring 76, 76 and 75 to tie for 34th. Senior Yugene Lee finished with a 231 on the week.
Junior Lauren Gregor and senior Alyssa Shimel each struggled on the second day, shooting 81 and 87, respectively. They finished plus-19 and plus-29 for the tournament.
“All of us were anxious to test our hard work from the winter in an actual tournament,” Dowling said. “I think the team should be pleased, and I’m pleased with the ability to implement (winter-season changes) in a tournament.”
Dowling expects more improvement out of her team early next month, when the Wolverines travel to Miami over spring break to compete in the Hurricane Invitational. After the tournament on Wednesday, March 5, the team will continue to train in Florida the rest of the week.