With the Cavalier women's golf team set to open play at the NCAA Championships this week, UVa coach Kim Lewellen sat down to preview the tournament with VirginiaSports.com.
Question: Having played a couple of practice rounds here at The Traditions Club, what are our thoughts on the course?
Lewellen: I really like this course. I think it sets up well for us. I think the girls are hitting the ball well. You need to be able to hit the ball well, especially your second shots out here because the greens are small. I really think it suits the type of players that we have.
Question: The locals claim there hasn't been measurable rain here since December. Did you notice that during the practice rounds? There is not much rough on the course and the ball seems to have a good roll in the fairways.
Lewellen: We have seen such crazy weather this spring and have played in some conditions that have been horrendous. We have played in a lot of water and played in a lot of cold. It is a breath of fresh air to be out here in the nice, warm weather. To me the course appears to be in fantastic shape. The fairways look good and there is a lot of grass on them. There is not a lot of rough but I think that might be by choice that they are doing that. You cannot tell they have not had significant rain here. The greens are good and receptive when you hit into them. I can only praise the condition of the golf course.
Question: This is Calle Nielson and Joy Kim's final college tournament. They are a part of your first senior class. How special does that make this week?
Lewellen: Even that question gets me teary eyed. Saying that, it is nice to have them out here competing. We kid and say this is your last something or other all the time. Like today, we were reminding them that this was their last practice round. We kid them, but it definitely pulls at my heartstrings. They are my first senior class since I've been at Virginia and they have been outstanding people and athletes to coach. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to coach them.
Question: Calle has been a regular in the lineup while Joy has been in-and-out more often. How does it make you feel to see Joy play her way into the lineup for this tournament, the final one she could play in college?
Lewellen: As we like to say, Joy is our end-of-the year player. She has played at every nationals and I think at every regional too. She plays golf very well when the weather is nice. We were pretty sure she would be here. She seems to save her best for last each season.
Question: You have had some concerns about the team starting slow at times this year. At the West Regional the team got off to a great start and were in second place after the first round. How important is it to play well here in the first round?
Lewellen: We need to get off to a good start. But, this is the national championship, and if we want to contend we need to get off to a good start on the first day, the second day, the third day and the fourth day. We're playing the best teams in the country and we need to play our best all four days.
Question: Do you see teams posting low scores here?
Lewellen: I do think the scores can be low. Saying that, it can get windy out here and there are going to be some thunderstorms rolling through here at times this week. We will see how that affects the teams and the ones on the course when the conditions change.
Question: Are you concerned about starting your first round in the afternoon when there is a tendency to be more wind in the area at that time of day?
Lewellen: Yes and no. I think we have played in the wind a lot this spring, so the girls are used to playing in it. You just have to play with whatever it is given you that day. There is a little advantage going out in the afternoon on the first day because you can see how the course is playing and what holes are more difficult than others. You can go out and watch and check those out.
Question: How nice is it that freshman Portland Rosen is playing in the NCAA Championships just a little over an hour away from her home in Sugar Land?
Lewellen: I don't think a lot of people know that I recruited Portland on this golf course. It was an AJGA tournament and I watched her on every hole for two days and I don't do that very often. I remember there was one particular spot on the course, and I saw it today, and I was sitting there thinking, "This is who I want to come play for us at Virginia." For me, to have her here under that type of history, and also the fact this is her home state, is special. She has played this course a lot in junior golf, so that should help here. She'll have a lot of family and friends out her watching her play. It will be exciting for her.