|Vandals to regionals|
Idaho's Kayla Mortellaro and Teo Poplawski tee off Thursday morning at Washington National Golf Course in the NCAA West Regional with the experience of regional competition in their bags. That and having a teammate nearby helped quell the nerves such a tournament might induce.
"It helps a lot to already have done this," said Poplawski, a junior who finished tied for 17th last year when the Vandals qualified as a team. "I'm not nervous like I was last year."
Mortellaro, also a junior and one of the top amateurs in the country, not only likes the comfort of having played at regional competitions but the companionship of a teammate as well. As a true freshman, she qualified as an individual for regional competition. She finished 38th both times she advanced.
"It helps to have another teammate," Mortellaro said. "You're not so isolated and alone."
Intangibles aside, the task ahead for Mortellaro and Poplawski is to master the Washington National Course, which measures approximately 6,100 yards but likely will play longer because of the heavy moisture that has inundated the Northwest this spring. Both, and coach Lisa Johnson, agreed the course is a good fit for their games.
"The course setup is excellent," Johnson said. "Both of them are very good ball strikers so they should be able to score well."
The key, the players said, is making sure of their accuracy into the large, multi-level greens. One green, Mortellaro noted, is as deep as half the length of a football field.
"You have to hit the fairway then hit the right quadrant of the green," Mortellaro said.
Poplawski likes the open feel off the tees.
"The course sets up well for my game," she said. "It's wide open off the tees. It will come down to the short game and putting. Lag putting is one of the better aspects of my game."
The 54-hole tournament begins Thursday and concludes Saturday.