ERIE - Boston has its legendary Green Monster in the Fenway Park outfield. Colorado National Golf Club has what might become legendary monster greens.
Their 18 ugly heads - the last as ferociously fast as the first - reared time and again on Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Women's West Regional. These were NASCAR greens, surfaces that had putts traveling pedal-to-the-metal almost as soon as they were stroked.
"The greens are like U.S. Open greens - they're super fast," said Colorado coach Anne Kelly of a layout her players are otherwise so familiar with they could negotiate it on a moonless night. But early Thursday morning, when the Buffaloes teed it up, there was a blatant difference in the course they call home.
"We've never seen the greens this fast before," Kelly said, "but it's great experience for these players. It is a championship course, for sure."
Added CU sophomore Alex Stewart: "A month ago they were really slow, so every time I got on (Thursday) I was thinking I had to power my putts. I haven't seen the greens like this, but I've only been here a year (after transferring from Purdue). They're the best I've seen them - rolling really nice, really fast."
Kelly termed the greens "beautiful," and from a groundskeepers' vantage point there would be no argument. But CU senior Emily Talley and her teammates obviously must adjust before Rounds Two and Three (Friday, Saturday). Then again, an expected weather change might take care of the adjustment for them.
But just in case there aren't enough showers to soften the surfaces, the Buffs spent significant time Thursday afternoon on CNGC's putting green. More efficient work in that area is a must if CU is to solidify a top eight finish among the 24 teams here and earn a first-ever trip to the NCAA Championships later this month in Franklin, Tenn. CU was tied for seventh with Pepperdine and Tulsa, each with a nine-over-par 297 - 10 shots back of first-day leader Stanford.
Talley, who has posted two of CU's top six rounds this season and owns a team-best seven top 20 finishes, cruised into her back nine - the Buffs started their opening round on the first tee - one under par. She finished with a four-over-76, largely due to four-putting her next-to-last hole, No. 8.
It was Talley's "first four putt ever, so that was not fun," and here's how she said it caused the blight on her scorecard: "I almost made my first putt from about 30 feet, but I blew it past five or six feet. Then, I got a little too confident about it coming back and it speeded up, went past another three feet. When you already had your two putts go past, it's like, 'Oh, shoot.' It's not beautiful and it's a bad way to finish."
But Talley and her buds are far from finished in this tournament, although all of them but sophomore Kristin Coleman left the course hoping this might have been the round to forget. Coleman finished with a one-under par 71 that featured five birdies and matched her best round of the season. Along with Coleman's 71, CU's 297 was composed of Talley's 76 and a pair of 75s from Stewart and Jess Wallace. Coleman's twin, Jenny, shot a 77, which was tossed.
Most of the Buffs' rough patches didn't occur until after they made the turn, finishing on Nos. 1-9. Four of them - Kristin Coleman being the exception - were a combined eight over on the last nine holes. A promising one under through 12 holes, Talley skidded to five over in her final six holes.
She said she was victimized by "a couple of bad breaks with some wedges. I thought I was hitting them well but the greens were getting hard so they weren't hitting and stopping. And I was getting a little hesitant with my putting. Other than that I thought I hit the ball pretty well. But down the stretch . . . it was just not a good way to finish. That's no fun. But I had a couple of good birdies and I know I can do better (Friday)."
Talley called her finish "very" frustrating "especially when I thought I was playing really well. I made the turn one under. I made some good pars and at one point I said 'I could be doing a lot worse right now.' Having it end that way is pretty bad."
All of Wallace's problems "kind of condensed themselves into six holes," she said. "Obviously, I didn't play my best. I had a few three putts. I read them correctly, I just didn't read the speed of the greens properly. We were expecting them to be fast and obviously I'll be ready for that (Friday). The greens are really, really fast and firm, but that's how we wanted them coming in. The course is in great shape; it can get you in trouble and I found out that, too."
Stewart, who has one of CU's two tournament wins this season (Wallace has the other) and three top five finishes, blamed the Buffs' final nine slide on attacking fast greens that were unforgiving. "I think a lot of us were trying to birdie those holes coming in and some aggressive putts got away from us and went like five or six feet by," she said. "And unfortunately we didn't make the 'come-backers.' I think we were trying to get too aggressive out there."
Thursday's bright sunshine and mostly blue skies might be things of the past when CU begins play in the afternoon session shortly before 1 p.m. Friday. The weather forecast calls temperatures in the mid- to low-50s with a 40 percent chance of rain - which could spell relief for the Buffs if the moisture doesn't materialize in the form of heavy thunderstorms.
Said Wallace: "My game's really not that bad right now, but I feel like I can come out (Friday) even in worse weather and play better. We've played this course in any type of weather, so we know what we're doing here. We had an event here (the Heather Farr Memorial Invitational, at which she took medalist honors) where we had lightning delays and 40 mile an hour winds. Really, how much worse can you get?"
Hopefully, not much, but as Kelly noted, while the weather is beyond her control, "At least we have experience playing in it, that's for sure." At the end of CU's first round, she said her team had "hung in there. We didn't finish like we wanted to, but overall we played well. We're obviously familiar with the golf course, but yeah, we haven't putted on greens of this quality for awhile . . . we'll be fine."
The Buffs have two more rounds to prove her right and advance.
Post-Round Notes – May 10, 2012
- The Buffs began on the No. 10 tee Thursday, and were in the lead of the morning wave at points in the round, going as low as 3-under par as a team. Through 13 holes, the Buffs were 1-over par as a team but then shot a collective 8-over par on the last five holes to finish tied for seventh at 9-over par.
- Sophomore Kristin Coleman matched her best round of the season, a 1-under par 71, finishing her round with five pars, four bogeys and nine pars. On the course back nine, her first nine holes of the day, she was 2-under par with four birdies. She also shot a 1-under par 71 in the first round of the season, on Sept. 12 at the Ptarmigan Ram Classic.
- Kristin Coleman now has four career rounds under par, two in each her freshman and sophomore campaigns.
- Kristin Coleman’s round was the first CU individual round under par in an NCAA Regional. The previous best round was a 75, shot several times before today and matched by both sophomore Alex Stewart and senior Jess Wallace in the first round.
- Kristin Coleman was one of 11 players under par and another six shot even par as 13.5 percent of the field shot even or under par.
- Sophomore Jenny Coleman shot a 5-over par 77, but aside from one triple bogey, she was 2-over on the other 17 holes with one birdie and three bogeys in an otherwise very consistent round.
- Senior Emily Talley shot a 4-over par 76 but was between 1-under and 1-over par the majority of her round. She was 1-under through 12 holes and shot 4-over par on her final three holes, which included her first four putt with a double bogey on No. 8, her 17th hole of the day.
- Senior Jess Wallace had three birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey en route to a 3-over par 75. Aside from a five hole stretch where she was 4-over par between the Nos. 3 and 7 holes, she played the rest of the course at 1-under par.
- Sophomore Alex Stewart carded a 3-over par 75 with two birdies and five bogeys. She was hanging near par before two bogeys in a three-hole stretch put her at 3-over. She rebounded to shoot par the remainder of the round.
- Colorado’s team score of 9-over par 297 marks the fifth team round in CU postseason history under 300 and is just one stroke behind the second-best performance. It is easily the top team round in CU’s NCAA Tournament history, besting a 305 performance in the final round of the 2009 NCAA West Regional in Tempe, Ariz.