Feb. 11, 2014
PALOS VERDES, Calif. - In the opening tournament of the spring, the No. 24 Michigan State women's golf team faced one of the most difficult fields it will see all season as 11 teams in the Regional Challenge were ranked in the Golfweek Top 25, including seven in the top 10.
The Spartans finished 13th in the 16-team tournament that concluded on Tuesday afternoon at the Palos Verdes Country Club with a 54-hole score of 908 (304-298-306). MSU finished ahead of No. 6 Pepperdine and No. 18 Florida on the final leaderboard.
Junior Trisha Witherby led the Spartans by shooting a career-low 220 (72-73-75) for the tournament, tying for 18th place; her previous low score was a 224 she posted at the 2012 Mary Fossum Invitational. Witherby collected a team-best 10 birdies in the tournament.
"We did a lot of great things," said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. "Trisha really came into her own this week, which was really exciting to see. Obviously we have some other areas we need to work on, but this is a difficult golf course to start out on, it's a very challenging and demanding course for any team, especially the ones coming from out East. It's always a great experience playing out here and the weather was the best it's been since we've been coming to this tournament."
Grassel and Ferrell each had top-50 finishes, as Grassel tied for 44th with a 227 (78-72-77) and Ferrell tied for 49th with a 228 (77-74-77).
Playing as an individual, Lindsey McPherson placed 78th with a 235 (84-79-72).
Defending NCAA champion and top-ranked USC carded a 14-over 866 and claimed first place by seven shots over No. 3 Duke (873). Annie Park of USC won medalist honors with a 6-under 207.
"We emphasize the demanding schedule at Michigan State - our goal is to play the most challenging tournaments against the best teams in the country, week in and week out," remarked Slobodnik-Stoll. "Without question, this is one of the best. Our girls understand we can play with anyone out there, sometimes it just takes time to develop. We have to make sure we're peaking in April and May when it really counts the most. Every day is a building block. For us, it's about what did we do good today, and what can we do to get better tomorrow to prepare us for our next tournament in Sarasota."
In addition to competing in the Regional Challenge, the Spartans played a round at the Los Angeles Country Club on Saturday, and also had a chance to help teach golf to kids from the First Tee of LA.
"I think most of the trips on our schedule are incredible opportunities, and this one was all of that and more," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "On Saturday, having the whole day to practice and play at LA Country Club was great, the team got to meet (PGA golfer) Rickie Fowler, and we were able to teach kids golf as well. Once we started the tournament, it was fun to be able to watch them again in competition. It doesn't seem like that long since October, but so much practicing goes on in between our last tournament in the fall to this point, so it was great to see them in action."
The Spartans return to competition Feb. 17-18 (Monday-Tuesday) for the Central District Invitational in Sarasota, Fla., at the Lakewood Ranch Cypress Course.