Opportunity Knocks in the Desert for Lady Flyers

Opportunity Knocks in the Desert for Lady Flyers

The spectacular vista is likely to be the first thing that grabs the attention of five Sandhills Community College golfers when they arrive at Longbow Golf Course in Mesa, Arizona for the 2018 NJCAA Women's National Championship.

"It is desert," says Flyers' coach Herb Pike who took his team there in 2013 and 2015. "There is cactus and all kinds of prickly stuff you can get into. The desert out there is made up of tiny little stones and the problem is that the ball will roll and roll until it gets up against something which is usually cactus or some other kind of bush.

"There are also some long carries to reach the fairway. It's not an easy situation."

The Lady Flyers qualified for the tournament as Region X champions.  Amanda Hill and Parker Watson will go directly from this Saturday's graduation ceremonies at Sandhills to Raleigh for the flight to Phoenix. They will be joined for the trip by freshmen Alicia Dunlap, Danielle Mirovich and Shirley Ou, Pike, assistant coach Bonnie McGowan and some family members.

The four-day, 72-hole event begins on Monday.

 "I'm excited," Watson says. "I know it is going to be a learning experience. I've heard that the ball is going to fly farther so I'm excited about that too. It will be the last college tournament for me. I'm looking to play well, but also have a good time with my teammates."

The Lady Flyers did not qualify as a team a year ago, but Hill, Watson and Danielle Washburn made the field as individuals for the tournament held in Braselton, Ga.  Daytona State (FL) won the title for the fourth time in the last five years. With three of the top five, and five of the top 10 golfers, according to the current Golfstat NJCAA statistics, the Florida College is favored to add to its laurels.

Ou, who came to this country from Beijing, China about a year ago,  was the medalist with scores of 81-78-159 when the Flyers won the Region X title at Legacy Golf Links three weeks ago.  She is ranked No.7 by Golfstat with a scoring average of 76.29.

She began playing golf at the age of six. Along the way she met Shanshan Feng who became the first player from China to join the LPGA Tour in 2008 and is currently ranked second in the world.

A positive experience for the family on a trip to Myrtle Beach for a tournament led Ou's parents to decide to move to this country. Raymond Ou is now the owner of Beacon Ridge Country Club in West End and his daughter works there when she is not attending classes or playing golf.

"My father plays and he brought me into the game," she says.  "He has found that there are many opportunities that come from playing golf and he pushes me to play and develop as a player.

"Of course I would like to finish strong. My goal is to rank in the top three at nationals. I'd like to be a first-team All-American. I know there is going to be pressure, but overall I'm feeling confident.

"The school is very supportive. I've been able to make some A's which I'm happy about.  Sandhills is a good place to be."

Ou was the medalist with rounds of 74-78-152 against golfers from nine four-year colleges at the Brown Golf Intercollegiate held a Country Club of Whispering Pines in March. Two weeks earlier Watson tied for fourth place with scores of 74-74-148 in the Pfeiffer Invitational field of 10 teams at Hilton Head Lakes. Hill and Mirovich have also posted scores in the 70's.

If Ou or any of the others finish among the top 18 golfers and ties at Longbow, Sandhills will have its first All-American in women's golf. The Flyers best finish as a team was 11th place in both 2013 and 2015.

"I'd like to see us finish in the top 10 and have several players earn All-American status," Pike says.  "They are capable. It's just a matter of whether they can put it all together for those four days."

Watson plans to attend Campbell University in the fall as the next step toward a law degree. Hill plans to pursue a career in nursing.  Both have had offers from four-year colleges, but are wrapping up their college golf careers next week.  Mirovich and Dunlap both plan to return to the team in the fall.

And then there is also this about Mesa. The 10-day weather forecast calls for temperatures of 103, 102, 100 and 100, with 10 per cent humidity, over the four days of the tournament.

"It's going to be really hot so we will have to keep hydrated," Mirovich says.  "I'm excited to go there and see what Arizona is all about."



C. Bergmann