The No. 6 USC women’s golf team fell from eighth to 16th on the final day of the NCAA Fall Preview in Wilmington, N.C. for its worst finish in five seasons.
A final round of 31-over-par — the worst of any team for any round in the tournament — sealed the Women of Troy’s fate after leading the first day. The team finished at 52-over 916 (288-309-319), 35 strokes behind first-place Duke at 17-over 881 (296-297-288).
The Women of Troy were without top golfer Jennifer Song, currently in South Korea preparing for the Hana Bank-KOLON Championship, a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament.
The team was led by junior All-American Lizette Salas, who finished tied for 12th in her return to competition. After missing the previous tournament for a wedding, Salas came back with a four-over 220 (72-75-73) to finish 10 strokes back of tournament-winner Cydney Clanton of Auburn.
Senior All-American Belen Mozo was tied with Salas at three-over through two rounds, but had to withdraw on the last day.
“Towards the end of the second round, she had a lie in the rough, and I think she jarred her shoulder,” USC coach Andrea Gaston said.
Four holes into the fourth round, Mozo called Gaston over, and explained the situation.
“She told me, ‘It’s kind of cold out and I don’t know if I should try to play on this, because my shoulder is really hurting,’ and I told her that we didn’t need any heroics right now,” Gaston said.
Her withdrawal left the team with only four players, meaning USC had to accept all scores instead of dropping the highest. Mozo, ranked ninth individually coming into the season, has struggled with a shoulder injury since last year, which forced her to have shoulder surgery over the summer.
Sophomore Inah Park finished tied for 50th at 13-over 229 (72-76-81). Senior Caroline Kim finished tied for 70th at 20-over 236 (73-82-81). Senior All-American Stephanie Endstrasser tied for 79th at 26-over 242 (75-83-84) in her season debut.
The tournament, held at the Country Club of Landfall’s Pete Dye Course, was designed to give teams a good look at the course which will host the national championship in June 2010.
The Women of Troy broke a 32-tournament streak of top-10 finishes, dating back to the 2005 NCAA Championship, when the team finished 11th. In both tournaments the Women of Troy led after the first day, only to fall from the top 10.
The team looks to rebound this weekend in Hawaii at the Turtle Bay Collegiate Invitational, its final tournament of the fall. The roster is up in the air, as Song is still in South Korea and Mozo may not be able to play.
Besides the roster uncertainties, there’s not much time to practice before leaving.
“We’re a fairly decent ball striking team, but we need to work on our short game and putting,” Gaston said. “We need to work twice as hard on that, because that’s where mental toughness comes in, as you don’t hit every green or make every putt.”