Joseph Vasquez / The Collegian
The Fresno State womenâ€™s golf team won the first Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship tournament in the programâ€™s short four-year history on Wednesday.
Before the start of the third and final round of the WAC championship golf tournament, the Bulldogs were seven strokes behind the leading New Mexico State team.
Before the round even started, coach Angie Cates reiterated to the team that it was competition against the course, not the other teams. Fresno State had to play its own game if it were to make a move in the final round.
Joseph Vasquez / The Collegian
Fresno State played two strong rounds of golf good enough to put the team in a tie for second place. Cates knew her teamâ€™s best golf was yet to come.
â€œEach player knew they still had a better round in them,â€ Cates said. â€œIn the first two days, we knew we hadnâ€™t put up our best scores.â€
At the end of the third day, Fresno State not only made up the seven stroke deficit, but ended the tournament in first place.
Fresno State was led by senior Laura Luethke, who won with an overall score of 4-over par.
Luethke said mental toughness and course knowledge were pivotal in her win at Sunnyside Country Club.
â€œThere was an advantage to playing [the course] a few times,â€ Luethke said. â€œI think itâ€™s a pretty big edge, especially for that course.â€
Luethke, who received First Team All-WAC honors, also gave credit to Cates for keeping her in a positive state of mind throughout the final day. Cates talked to Luethke during much of the final day about everything except golf as she played the course.
â€œShe was just trying to calm me down and make sure I wasnâ€™t too nervous,â€ Luethke said. She said keeping her mind off the tournament was key.
Cates also interacted with junior Hali Coppin going into the final round. Cates said Coppin was nervous when she took the course early in the morning. Eventually, Coppin overcame her nerves and finished the last round at par five strokes better than her opening round.
â€œWe were just really calm and confident all week,â€ Cates said. â€œWe focused on what we could control which was what weâ€™re doing.â€
Fresno State played the course the way it knew how, Cates said. The Bulldogs had the home team advantage and knew how to play the course. Staying out of the bunkers and attacking the middle of the small greens was pivitol, Cates said.
â€œI knew people were going to start falling off the leader board because Sunnyside will get you,â€ Cates said. â€œSunnyside is the type of course where you have to have a good game plan out there.â€
In the final round of competition, scores began to fall. Hawaiiâ€™s Corie Hou shot the first two rounds at par and one stroke over. In the final round, she shot 7-over-par and dropped to fourth place.
The Bulldogs continued to play their game and the consistency paid off. No Fresno State player fell below twentieth place in the field of 35.
â€œThe last day was just a really solid performance by everyone,â€ Cates said. â€œIt was so much about believing and trusting. They all have great games. It was just making sure they didnâ€™t get in their own way.â€
After winning the WAC tournament, Fresno State received an automatic bid to play in the NCAA regionals, and the team finds out on Monday which region they will play in. Cates, who won WAC Coach of the Year honors, has her hopes on the West Region.
Fresno State played the NCAA West Regional Preview earlier in the year and placed third.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping they send us to West because that is where we already played, and we know the course and we played well,â€ Cates said.
â€œWe will be comfortable on that golf course, and know how to play it.â€
Senior Luethke canâ€™t wait to get back on the course, seeing as it will be the final tournament of her collegiate career.
â€œWe all kind of elevated our game the last day,â€ Luethke said. â€œIf we can keep it going, our chances are pretty good.â€