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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Friday, March 31, 2000

Seeing stars of
the future at Olomana

THE great thing about the University of Hawaii women's golf tournament held this time of the year is the opportunity to scout out future LPGA stars.

Among the previous Wahine tournament winners are Hawaii's Cindy Flom and San Jose State's Janice Moodie, now LPGA Tour regulars, and Arizona's Annika Sorenstam, who already has earned a place in the LPGA's Hall of Fame even though she's not even 30.

So when Cristina Baena defeated teammate Jenna Daniels on the second playoff hole yesterday at Olomana as Arizona, the No.1-ranked women's team in collegiate golf, won the championship, you had to figure you were watching two future LPGA stars.

They both shot 69s for the second day in a row to finish with 54-hole totals of 213 as the Wildcats overcame a seven-stroke Pepperdine lead in the final round to win by two shots.

It was Arizona's 12th victory in 17 tournaments.

No wonder Arizona coach Todd McCorkle is confident about his team's chances in the Pac-10 Championship at the Eugene (Ore.) Country Club April 24 and the NCAA Championships a month later in Bend, Ore.

For years, the Wildcats had been the second best team in the state of Arizona. Arizona State was always No. 1.

But, as McCorkle likes to point out, in three of the years that the Sun Devils won the NCAA women's title, "We won the Pac-10 championship."

THIS season, the Wildcats won't play second fiddle to the Sun Devils. Not with Daniels and Baena, and Jill Gomric, No. 9 in the nation, who sat out the final two rounds at Olomana after hurting her right wrist on a shot on the first day.

"We've always been competitive with Arizona State," said McCorkle, who played a couple of years on the Nike Tour before deciding that coaching provided a better income.

He was an assistant under Buddy Alexander at Florida when the Gators won four Southeastern Conference titles and then the national championship in 1986.

When the head coaching job at Tucson opened up, McCorkle followed the sun.

"We've recruited well," said McCorkle, now in his third year as Arizona's head coach. It helped that he inherited Daniels and Baena, who naturally decided to follow her older sister to Tucson.

In Daniels' case, it was a matter of working hard and a lot of practice. Daniels wasn't highly recruited as a youngster out of San Diego. But she worked her way up from being among the 50 best in the country to No. 1.

"She's just a perfect student-athlete who was very competitive," McCorkle said.

DANIELS kept improving every year, finishing in a tie for seventh place in last year's NCAA tournament. .

"I definitely saw an improvement in my game every year," said Daniels. "My team, the success of my team, is No. 1 in my heart. My No. 1 goal is to win the team championship."

In terms of individual honors, Daniels knows that she has to play well to keep up with Baena, who smiles more than her sister, Marisa, if that's at all possible.

"She's a wonderful player," Daniels said.

If being No. 1 in women's golf is pressure, Daniels thinks that Cristina feels more pressure because of her older sister.

"She's definitely in the spotlight more than I am. (But) she's going to be a super star."

Daniels played two years with Marisa on the Arizona team. Now this is her second year with Cristina.

"I had a Baena every year I played," Daniels said.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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