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Tigers still confident

Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:32 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Missouri just got back to Columbia, but it can’t wait to leave again.

Monday’s invitation to the three-day NCAA Central Regional gives the Tigers a chance to bounce back from a disappointing end in the Big 12 Conference Championship.

MU had to pack up early from last weekend’s championship. The Tigers departed from College Station, Texas, after a two-day deluge left Pebble Creek Country Club unplayable Sunday.

Coach Stephanie Cooper said the Tigers expect a berth in the regional. The Central Regional, one of three NCAA regionals, begins May 6.

MU was forced to settle for sixth place at the Big 12 championship after posting Saturday’s highest round, 299. Sixth was four spots up from where the Tigers started out Saturday morning.

“It just kind of felt very anticlimactic,” Cooper said. “We didn’t get to finish, the girls just kind of felt empty.

“I know if we would’ve played we would have made another move. That’s just the kind of players we are.”

Junior Maria Ohlsson was the Tigers’ top finisher in a tie for fourth place. She shot a 3-over-par 147.

Seeded No. 8 in a 21-team field, the Tigers are confident as they try to advance to the NCAA National Championship. The regional site, University Golf Course in Normal, Ill., is a familiar one. It was there that MU won its first tournament of the fall season, the Illinois State Invitational.

“It gives us a little bit of an edge having experience there,” sophomore Denise Knaebel said.

Knaebel has the Tigers’ lowest stroke average, 74.2.

MU’s win in Normal was key, its first since 2000. The Tigers hope for an even more important victory this time around in Normal. MU can earn its first berth in the national championships if it can finish among the top eight teams at the Central Regional.

The Tigers will face five teams that won conference championships, including Vanderbilt, the No. 3 seed in GolfStat rankings. Two Big 12 teams, Oklahoma, seeded fifth, and No. 11 seed Texas A&M, also will compete. Eight Big 12 teams were invited to regional competition.

After finishing second at last year’s Big 12 championships, MU set its sight on playing in the national championships.

“When you’re competing against Texas and Oklahoma State and beating them, that tells you you can play with anyone in the country,” Cooper said.

The Tigers earned two wins and three second place finishes en route to the postseason. Two years ago, MU was not offered a bid to regionals.

Now, an invitation to the Central Regional isn’t met with excitement, but is an expected prompt to players to head for the practice range. Cooper said three MU golfers were with her when she received the telephone invitation to postseason competition, and each reacted calmly before going to hit balls.

“We’re hoping that this is kind of the trend, that we’re going to be automatics into the tournament, and work our way up to be at nationals every year,” Cooper said.

“We haven’t reached that height yet. It’s really hard to get there. We’ve got to get there once before we can make it a routine for us.”


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