It’s not exactly college basketball’s Selection Sunday, and ESPN probably won’t be anywhere near the golf courses of Ann Arbor, but the Michigan women’s golf team can definitely relate to all those teams that had to suffer through March “on the bubble.”
That’s because, entering this weekend’s Lady Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, the Wolverines are firmly entrenched in a fight for a spot in the 21-team NCAA Central Regional that begins May 8.
“I think we’re probably about twentieth based on scoring averages and things of that sort,” Michigan coach Kathy Teichert said. “Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin will all be at the tournament this weekend, and they are teams that are just ahead of us or right there with us.
“One win could solidify our spot.”
The 21 teams for the Central Regional are chosen based on several factors, including head-to-head competition and scoring averages. But, just like in basketball, if a team captures its conference championship, it receives an automatic berth in the Regional. That means that there are usually one or two teams a year that are ranked outside of the top-21 that earn the right to compete in the Regional, knocking another team out.
“This is all hypothetical,” Teichert said. “But if we can get into the top 17, we’ll get a spot.”
The Lady Boilermaker marks the last regular season competition of the year for the Wolverines, with the Big Ten Championships on deck, April 25-27 in Iowa City.
All things considered, the Wolverines ought to feel comfortable heading to Purdue. That’s because Michigan is less than a week removed from a sixth-place finish at the Indiana Invitational.
“We just went to Indiana last week, but it’s actually a warmer climate now, so we’ll take it,” Teichert said. “We’ll take anything south of Ann Arbor right now.”
The Wolverines would also take a performance from senior Kim Benedict similar to the one she turned in at Bloomington.
Benedict captured her third career victory as a Wolverine, firing an even-par 222 over 72 holes, enabling her to hold off Kim Connelly of Wisconsin by a single stroke.
In addition to the individual tournament title, Benedict also was rewarded by being named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week yesterday.
With Benedict in high gear, Teichert is now hoping to kick start everyone else. Due to the inclement weather, the Wolverines were unable to hold team qualifying this week, meaning they will compete with an identical lineup to last week.
That lineup will include sophomore Laura Olin and freshman Amy Schmucker, two golfers that Teichert knows must post solid rounds if the Wolverines are to overcome Illinois, Nebraska and the rest of the teams competing with Michigan for a regional spot.
“We’ve got to expect good things from Laura and Amy,” Teichert said. “Amy got off to a tough start last week, but she showed the ability to come back. We’re sticking with the same lineup because they’re obviously the freshest.”