Led by an outsider and an insider, the UCLA women's golf team is given an outside chance of winning the NCAA championships, which began Wednesday and continues through Saturday at Ohio State University's Scarlet course.
Ms. Outside is team captain Kay Cockerill of Los Gatos, who was a walk-on as a freshman and played her way into a scholarship. A senior All-American, Cockerill is the daughter of a newspaperman who taught her the game on public courses.
Ms. Inside is junior All-American Kristal Parker of Cable, Ohio, twice a winner of the Junior World Championship. She also learned to play from her father on the public links--but on a course owned by her dad, Bill, who has since gone into building courses, including Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, a spot on the pro tour designed by Jack Nicklaus.
When she was 5, Parker first took a club in her tiny mitts; Cockerill waited until she was 12.
Parker was a two-time All-American selection by both Golf magazine and Golf Digest when she was in high school, and has lived up to her reputation as a college player.
Last year, among other things, she shot a course record 68 en route to conference medalist honors, finished among the top 10 scorers in seven tournaments, topped the field in the Western Collegiate Athletic Assn. Championship and won All-American honorable mention after finishing 11th in the NCAAs.
This year Parker's triumphs have included a win in the Patty Sheehan Invitational (after finishing second last year), a second-place finish in the PacWest Conference Tournament (after a playoff with Arizona State's Pam Wright), eight top-10 finishes and an individual national ranking of No. 8 going into the NCAAs.
Cockerill turned out for golf as a freshman and played consistently in the 70s that year, and she said she "got her foot in the door" that year when she won the San Diego State Lady Aztec Invitational.
The door has been wide open ever since. After she learned the game from her father, Dale, wire editor for the San Jose Mercury-News, she said that she played in only a couple of summer tournaments before she entered UCLA.
Last year, among other things, Cockerill won the Weber State and University of Arizona invitationals, was named all-conference for a third time, had six top-10 finishes, was named a second-team All-American and finished sixth in the NCAAs, the best performance by a Bruin in the national championships since Janet Coles was the runner-up in 1974. An economics major, she was also named to the Coaches' Academic All-America team.
This season she opened up with wins in the Brigham Young and Ohio State invitationals, finished in the top 10 eight times and is rated the No. 10 player in the country by the NCAA.
Florida, defending NCAA champion, is No. 1 in the latest national rankings, USC fifth, and UCLA, which won the BYU Invitational and has finished second and third a couple of times each, is No. 8.
Cockerill and Parker were asked if the team and individual rankings are about right, and they both answered that they thought the rankings were accurate.
"Kristal (No. 8) started out kind of slow," said Cockerill, No. 10, "but she has really been putting in scores in the last five or six tournaments.
"I started off the year pretty well, and I have been pretty consistent. But I haven't had as many low scores as I wanted." Their games are not dissimilar, she said, "but Kristal out-drives me by 10 to 20 yards." Cockerill and most of the women hit drives of about 230 yards.
They said that the team is familiar with the Ohio State Scarlet course (yes, there's also a Gray course) because the Bruins finished second in that school's invitational last September. Cockerill shot rounds of 71-72-73 for a 216 total to take medalist honors by a whopping eight strokes in the 54-hole tourney. Parker shot 225 to finish third at Ohio State, not far from Parker's hometown of Cable.
Could Win Title
Last year's Bruins, who lost only regulars Sophie La Paire and Fran Epstein to graduation after the season, finished ninth in the NCAAs, and their No. 8 ranking this year makes the team a dark horse to capture the national title.
Do Cockerill and Parker think the team can do it?
"We're a long shot, but anything can happen," Cockerill said.
"I think that if we are all playing well, we'll really be in there," Parker added.
"That's what it will take: all of us playing our best," said Cockerill.
Other Bruins scheduled to play with the team are freshmen Lana Perhacs of Glendale, Ariz., and Jessica Posener, a native of Lidingi, Sweden, and sophomore Sharon Goo of Kailua, Hawaii.