University of Miami women’s golf head coach Patti Rizzo threw out the first pitch before Tuesday’s Hurricanes baseball game, and naturally, it was a perfect strike.
That’s just the way things have been going this month for the former Hurricanes golfer and LPGA professional.
Earlier this month, the Hurricanes clinched their first berth in the NCAA Women’s Golf championship tournament since 1992. The team’s pursuit of the sixth national title in program history begins Friday in Eugene, Oregon.
“It’s been a long time since Miami’s had a team go to nationals,” Rizzo said Tuesday night. “I’m just hoping to get back to that level [of past Hurricanes teams], and we’re very excited.”
Rizzo knows what to expect at the highest level of competition. During her career at Miami, she was named a collegiate All-American in 1981 and helped the Hurricanes finish eighth at that year’s championship.
Past experience did not prevent Rizzo from feeling a bit tense as her team finished the final day of play at the regional in Bryan, Texas, two weeks ago.
“After the first nine holes, we were nervous,” Rizzo said. “The back nine, they all came around and clicked. …The last one or two holes, I wasn’t nervous because we had a little cushion.”
The Hurricanes finished fifth in the Bryan regional, two strokes ahead of sixth-place Texas and three strokes on seventh-place Tulane. The top six finishers from each of the four 18-team regionals form the 24-team championship field.
“We just all gave hugs and were really happy,” Rizzo said. “It’s great to do well in regionals. … Since I’m used to winning [the championship] on the tour, getting there is just another step.”
Rizzo had the Hurricanes primed to take the next step in 2016, as the team reached the regionals for the fourth consecutive year before advancing to the championship for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
Rizzo said freshman Dewi Weber and junior Daniela Darquea delivered standout performances in Bryan. Weber finished all three days of the regional under par, and her total score of 6-under was the third lowest of any individual and one stroke off the weekend’s lowest tally. Darquea shot 4-under on the regional’s first day and finished the weekend tied for eighth at 2-under par.
Weber, Darquea, and the rest of the Hurricanes will look to continue their solid performance when the team returns to championship play Friday.
“When I got hired here, I was hoping I could have gotten to nationals in five years,” Rizzo said. “It took a year more than I was expecting. … I’m just really thrilled to put Miami back on the golfing map.”