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Woof! Mississippi State rallies to make 54-hole cut at Grayhawk


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As Mississippi State orchestrated a furious back-nine charge late Sunday evening at Grayhawk Golf Club, the Bulldog players didn’t just feel it; they could hear it.

Woof! Woof! Woof!

“When you start hearing Chuck Daniel barking,” head coach Charlie Ewing says, “then you know what’s going on.”

That would be Chuck Daniel, former Mississippi State baseball player and dad of current Bulldogs senior Abbey Daniel, who with her team a few shots outside the cut line stuffed her approach shot to 6 inches at the par-4 penultimate hole. The birdie moved Mississippi State to 20 over, two shots back of San Jose State, which had just played the par-5 finishing hole in a bogey-free 3 under and figured it had just earned, by one shot over Baylor, the 15th and final berth into Monday’s final round of stroke play at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship.

But up on the next tee, Bulldogs freshman Izzy Pellot saw Daniel had a tap-in birdie – and heard the barks – and then after finding the fairway, she stuck a 6-iron from 186 yards to 8 feet and rolled in a huge eagle putt. Tied.

Daniel and sophomore Julia Lopez Ramirez would add birdies – Daniel at No. 18 and Ramirez at No. 17 – and the fifth-ranked Bulldogs, which beat just three of the 30 teams in the field in Friday’s first round, made the 54-hole cut by two shots. With its four counters 8 under on the back nine Sunday, Mississippi State climbed eight spots on the leaderboard to 14th place at 16 over, 11 shots back of a two-way tied for seventh held by Arizona and Texas A&M.

The top eight teams after Monday advance to match play.

(Stanford leads Wake Forest and Texas by seven shots at 13 under. USC, Florida State and South Carolina round out the top six.)

“It’s been a heckuva few days,” Ewing said. “This is where you feel really grateful that you’re playing a 72-hole tournament instead of a 54-hole tournament. We’ve still got time, we’ve still got holes left. That first round you leave here thinking, was that one of our worst rounds of the year? Not a great time to have it. And then we probably just had one of our best back nines of the year at a time when we really, really needed it. … The whole day tomorrow is going to have to look a lot like the back nine today, but we’re grateful for the opportunity for sure.”

USC freshman Catherine Park leads the NCAA Championship by two shots and childhood friend Rose Zhang by four entering Monday’s final round at Grayhawk.

Ewing said his team is not focused on what it needs to shoot on Monday to qualify for match play for the first time in program history. Instead, the Bulldogs are focused on, well, doing just that: staying focused on what they can control.

“We’re not looking at scores or what number we have to get to,” Ewing added. “It’s just a matter of let’s focus, let’s stick with our recipe, play the best round that we possibly can. If we execute that at a really high level, we feel we have a great opportunity to continue playing on Tuesday.”

Shortly after keeping their season alive, Mississippi State’s players headed down to the lake that sits between the 10th and 18th holes to feed some ducks.

Ewing hopes his Bulldogs will be able to feed off their Sunday finish.