April 30, 1997

Boiler Golfers Will Challenge for Big Ten Crown

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Behind the leadership of fourth-year head coach Bob Prange, the Purdue women's golf program is getting back on the right track. For a program that seemed to perennially finish at or near the bottom, the 1997 team is starting to look at things from a new perspective -- the top.

By winning the Boilermaker Invitational on April 12-13 and finishing third at the Hawkeye Invitational on April 19-20, Purdue earned a coveted spot in the 1997 NCAA Women's Golf East Regional. The tournament, to be played May 8-10 at Illinois State, features 19 teams, 17 of which are ranked in the top 50 of the Rolex/CGF rankings. Top performers from the regional will earn the right to compete in the NCAA Championships hosted by Ohio State.

But first, Purdue will compete in the Big Ten Championship Tournament in East Lansing, Mich., on May 2-4. The Boilers have a chance to finish in the top three, with their stiffest competition coming from Ohio State and Indiana. The Buckeyes are ranked 27th, while the Hoosiers are 32nd. Purdue is currently ranked 42nd. The Boilers placed fourth at last year's conference tournament, and their highest finish was third in 1983.

Now more than ever, Purdue has the ability to challenge for the Big Ten title. The Boilers have been impressive this spring, winning two of six tournaments and finishing in the top six in all of them. Winning the Boilermaker Invitational was especially sweet, after finishing as the runner-up in last year's tournament. Purdue had four golfers finish in the top 10 in that home event, including junior Colleen Cashman and freshman Stacy Orschell, who both tied for second.

"We (were) real happy to come out with the win," Prange said. "I'm very pleased that we finished four players in the top 10, which is a good, consistent showing."

Prange has been looking for this consistency for four years. He took over the Boiler reins in 1993, following a disappointing 10th place finish in the Big Ten. With three years of building under his belt, Prange seems to be heading his squad in the right direction.

"In each tournament we play in we are continuing to improve," said Prange. "We have had good, solid rounds from Angela Blythe and good, consistent play from Stacy Orschell."

These are two names that are quickly becoming familiar to Boilermaker aficionados. Blythe, a sophomore from Evansville, has Purdue's second-lowest average this spring with a 78.9. She is in the record book two times over, possessing the lowest 54-hole tournament score (221) and the second-lowest round (70).

Orschell, a rookie from Connersville, has the lowest spring average with a 78.5. She has been Purdue's highest finisher on four occasions (including ties).

Rounding out Purdue's top-line is Cashman, a junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. She boasts a 79.6 average this spring. Cashman took medalist honors at the San Diego State Fall Classic on Oct. 28-29, shooting a 227 over three rounds. She is currently in the record books with the sixth-lowest round (72) and fourth-lowest 54-hole score (227, twice).

The Boilers are looking for at least two good performances, if not more, to close out the 1997 season.

"We have put in a lot of hard work this spring and it has paid off," Blythe says. "We are more than capable of finishing in the top three, if not higher, at Big Ten's."

According to Cashman, success at Big Ten's and the East Regional will be determined by mental, as well as physical fortitude.

"We are going to have to putt well and get four good scores per round," Cashman says. "We've just got to keep our heads in the game and concentrate on what we're doing."