Cyclones Play Host To Big 12 Championship
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State head women’s golf coach Christie Martens knows the tremendous opportunity that lies ahead for her squad this week.
The Cyclones will play host to the 2013 Big 12 Women’s Golf Championship, April 19-21 at The Harvester Golf Club in Rhodes, Iowa. After ascending up the ranks into an elite team in the Big 12 the past three years, Martens hopes a little home-course advantage can help the Cyclones breakthrough and claim their first conference title in 20 years.
“You always want to be peaking at the end of the season, and we have made so much progress from the beginning of the year until now,” Martens said. “We know we are right there with the best teams in the nation, which is a real positive heading into postseason.”
Martens has guided ISU to three-straight fourth-place finishes at the Big 12 Championship and three-straight NCAA Regional berths. The Cyclones, which established their highest ranking in school history earlier this year, are currently ranked 27th nationally by Golfweek.
The Cyclone top-five are a solid group from top to bottom. All five have played in every tournament this season and average between 74.2-75.6 strokes per round. In preparation for this year’s Big 12 Championship, the Cyclones utilized practice time at The Harvester as much as they could in the fall. Martens hopes the local course knowledge will give them an edge.
“There is an excitement in our community about Iowa State hosting this championship and it’s great for our players to compete at a course they have played a lot,” Martens said. “They know the ins and outs and they know the greens. They definitely know the course and that will be huge for their confidence.”
The Harvester will host its second Big 12 Championship (2001). The course annually rates as the best layout in Iowa, earning distinction as Iowa’s top-rated course by Golf Digest the last 11 years. In 2012, The Harvester was ranked as the 39th-best public course in the nation according to Golf Digest.
The 2013 Big 12 Championship will be set-up as a par-72, 6,055-yard layout. Nestled in central Iowa’s natural wetlands, The Harvester features rolling fairways, as well as densely wooded areas and some dramatic elevation changes. It will be tough test for the 45 competitors, which includes defending national champion Chirapat Jao-Javanil of Oklahoma.
The Big 12 is yet again one of the nation’s best women’s golf alliances. A total of six teams are ranked in the nation’s top-30 according to Golfstat, led by No. 4 Oklahoma.
Iowa State has finished in the top-five in six tournaments this season. Individually, the Cyclones have five players ranked in the top 225 individuals nationally in the latest Golfweek ratings.
“That is kind of the exciting thing about our team is that we don’t have a weak link,” Martens said. “We have consistency throughout our lineup. From No. 1 to No. 5, there is less than a shot difference in scoring average.”
Senior Punpaka Phuntumabamrung leads the team in stroke average (74.2) and is capping off one of the finest careers in ISU history.
The Bangkok, Thailand, native has a team-high three top-10 showings this season and has 11 top-10 finishes in her brilliant career, including a third-place showing at the Marsh Landing Invitational (April 8-9). Phuntumabamrung was an All-Big 12 performer a year ago by tying for eighth at the 2012 Big 12 Championship in Lawrence, Kan. She’s played in 130 rounds in her four-year career, the most in school history.
“Bo (Phuntumabamrung) played awesome last week at Marsh Landing,” Martens added. “She lost by one shot and was our leader. She didn’t hit the ball great, but she found a way to score, which is huge for her confidence.”
Juniors Sasikarn On-iam and Prima Thammaraks will also figure significantly into ISU’s chances for the title. The duo rank No. 1 and 2 on ISU’s career stroke average record chart and have plenty of experience, competing in every tournament since stepping foot on campus in 2010.
It’s been 20 years since the Cyclones won their first and only conference title, capturing the 1993 Big Eight Championship at the Firethorn Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb. It will be a tall task, but Martens is hoping her team can add another trophy to the mantle next week.
“We always talk to our team about toughness and being a tough team,” Martens said. “We know how tough this tournament will be to win. We have to go in with an attacking and aggressive mindset, but I like where our team is right now.”
Competitors will play 18 holes beginning at 8 a.m. CT each day. Fans are welcome to attend with no admission fee.
Follow all of the live scoring at the 2013 Big 12 Women's Golf Championship here.