ERIE - A dramatic weather change for the second round of the NCAA Women's West Regional golf tournament had little effect on the host school's performance. On a cold and drippy Friday, the Colorado Buffaloes were as erratic as they had been on a sun-swept, 80-degree Thursday.
With only Saturday's third round remaining, the Buffs have a final chance to smooth out what have become puzzling and unexpected rough spots on their home course. They still can secure a top eight finish in the West's formidable field of 24 and qualify for their first trip to the NCAA Championships.
Said veteran CU coach Anne Kelly: "You can't ask for more than that."
"We'll just go out and play our game; whatever you do, you do right and it'll be fine," said sophomore Jenny Coleman, whose par 72 in Friday's intermittent rain and mid-40 degree temperatures at the Colorado National Golf Club proved to be CU's top score of the day.
After opening with a team score of 297 on Thursday which left them tied for seventh with Pepperdine and Tulsa, the Buffs slid to a 301 Friday and slipped into a tie with Illinois for ninth with a two-day total of 598. CU and Illinois are one shot back of No. 8 California and two shots behind No. 7 Pepperdine. But the Buffs and Illini are only two shots ahead of a threesome bunched at No. 11 - Tulsa, UC Davis and San Jose State - and only three shots ahead of No. 14 Oklahoma.
From Pepperdine downward to OU, that's five strokes separating eight teams.
"I don't know if there'll be any more pressure (Saturday), but you just try to block that out and play your own game . . . it's always going to be close; it's like that in every tournament," said Coleman, whose first-day 77 was the highest of CU's five scores and was tossed out.
Her twin sister, Kristin, posted the Buffs' top score - a one-under 71 - on Thursday yet managed only a 78 on Friday. But her round remained among CU's four that counted when sophomore Alex Stewart withdrew after 14 holes because of illness. Stewart, who shot a first-round 75, was eight over for the day when she withdrew.
Kelly said Stewart "tried her guts out," adding that Stewart can participate in Saturday's final round if she receives medical clearance. Having five players rather than four would ease some of the pressure on the Buffs, Kelly noted: "There's a lot of pressure going in with just four. But we'll deal with it if it happens."
Senior Jessica Wallace called Stewart "a very big part of this team, and obviously not having her in the lineup will hurt a bit. But we hosted (a) tournament last year and played the final round with four players and everyone kind of stepped up. We've done it before, so I'm very confident in the four players who could play (Saturday). If Alex is able to play, then it's just a welcome addition."
Wallace and senior Emily Talley matched their first-round scores in Friday's second round, Wallace shooting a 75 and Talley a 76. Neither was particularly pleased with her round, although Talley said she thought she "played way better (Friday), but my score doesn't show it. It was tough out there; I'm still trying to thaw out my hands."
Friday's rain and 40-plus degree temperature swing from the previous day softened and slowed what had been hard and fast greens. But the dramatic 24-hour weather swing, said Kelly, caused a dramatic change in course conditions: "The ball wasn't going as far . . . the greens were a little softer. When it's cold it's hard to swing. It's just different, but you just have to adjust. Good players adjust to different conditions."
"That's Colorado for you," Talley said. "You see a complete switch in weather . . . but they give us great stuff to stay warm, so why not use it? Wear the summer stuff (Thursday), the winter stuff (Friday). It's great."
But the Buffs encountered as many problems on a "summer" day as they did on a "winter" day. Talley called Thursday "the more disappointing round because we didn't capitalize on the good weather. (Friday) there were tougher conditions and everyone was feeling it."
Although Talley didn't suffer another four-putt green in the second round, she bogeyed all four of CNGC's par five holes. "That's really unlike me; I usually capitalize on the par fives," Talley said. "I didn't (Friday). I was setting myself up great but I think it was all the approach shots that got me. I just wasn't getting them close . . . I was great off the tee, great second shots. I even did well once I got on the greens - when I did get on the greens. Those are stupid mistakes I was making. That's something I need to fix before (Saturday). That's four strokes right there."
Wallace was only one over par headed into the final hole, but hit her second shot on No. 18 into the water and took a double bogey. "I'm more disappointed in the finish than anything else," she said. "I hung tough for most of the day. I just had a bad shot there (on No. 18), a poorly executed shot."
Although Jenny Coleman came close to chipping in for an eagle on No. 12, she called her second round "kind of boring - a lot of two putts and stuff." Consistency, she said, enabled her to shave five strokes from her first-round score: "I was either hitting on the green or the fringe and two putting, making a couple of birdies, a couple of bogeys. It felt great . . . better putting, really better everything."
Her two-day total of 149 matches her sister's, and ties them for 30th with eight other golfers. They are CU's top two-day scores, and conceded there is "some disappointment . . . but it is what it is and those were tough conditions."
CU, the regional's No. 4 seed, is in Saturday's first wave, beginning play at 7:30 a.m. Talley expects the Buffs to enter the final round "feeling good. We're still in it . . . this is a tough, tough competition, a tough field. We've got some great teams out there, great girls that can shoot well. It's a tough field and this is what we were expecting."