McDonald leads Bulldogs into national tourney encore

McDONALD

McDONALD

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

Ally McDonald may not be a senior yet, but there is little question who leads the Mississippi State women’s golf team – both on and off the course.

McDonald, a junior from Fulton, is not only the Lady Bulldogs’ top player but has also earned the respect from her teammates and coaching staff.

“She never gives up,” said MSU coach Ginger Brown-Lemm. “She’s constantly seeking ways to get better. She’s a mature player and really gets the game. Even if she mis-hits the ball during the round, she’ll find a way to get it in the hole. Watching her develop and continuing to believe, she leads with that belief.”

McDonald is enjoying the top season in the MSUprogram’s history. Her 71.74 stroke average is the lowest in school history and has five top five and eight top 10 finishes this season.

McDonald won the Old Waverly Bulldog Invitational in the fall at 9 under par and finished fourth in the NCAA Central Regional earlier this month in Stillwater, Okla.

She opened play at the NCAA championship on Tuesday with a 3-over 73. She was tie for 22nd place, six strokes off the lead.

“This is something that you dream about and push towards,” McDonald said. “It’s always something that’s in the back of your mind and makes you grow as a player. To say I didn’t expect this would’ve been my fault as a player not setting my standards. I’ve dreamed about playing well at Mississippi State and have pushed for that.”

This summer McDonald will have the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Curtis Cup, June 6-8 in St. Louis. She is one of eight American golfers who will take on Great Britain and Ireland in the biennial tournament.

Title chase

But McDonald and her Bulldog teammates still have some unfinished business to take care of. MSU is one of 24 teams competing for a national title this week at The Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club

The Bulldogs opened with a 22-over 302 on Tuesday, good for 12th place. Oklahoma was the first-day leader at 288.

It’s the second year in a row the Bulldogs have advanced to the NCAA Championships. State finished 24th at the event in 2013 while McDonald was tied for 10th at 2 over par.

“Going back-to-back years is a really big thing,” McDonald said. “It’ll be a different experience for our freshmen but I know they’re both ready. It’ll be exciting to be a part of it and we’re going to give it our best shot.”

The Bulldogs qualified for the NCAAs after finishing third in the Central Regional in Norman, Okla. Returning to the Sooner State gives McDonald and her team confidence.

Wind adjustments

“No matter what kind of golf course you throw in front of us, we’re going to find a way to get it in the hole,” McDonald said. “The biggest adjustment between playing in Oklahoma and Mississippi is wind. It’s just about finding the right trajectory and getting your ball flight down a little bit. You just have to see where you need to hit it and trust in that.”

Three players shared the first-day lead at 3-under 67 – Doris Chen of Southern Cal, Tonje Daffinrud of Denver and Lauren Kim of Stanford.

MSU’s other scores on a Tuesday that indeed proved to be windy: Jessica Peng 75, Mary Langdon Gallagher 76, Rica Tse 78 and Ji Eun Baik 80.

The tourney continues through Friday.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com