Brianna Espinoza plans on taking a break from competitive golf soon, but not before finishing her collegiate career with a few more milestones.
The Desert Vista graduate was back in Arizona this weekend playing in the Mountain West Conference tournament at Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park for Colorado State.
While the results weren’t available by deadline, Espinoza hoped to continue her run of success in her home state as her career winds down.
On April 9-11, Colorado State was in Arizona for the Cowgirl Classic, hosted by Wyoming, at Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler.
Espinoza was the medalist for the first time in her career and gave her a shot of confidence heading into the final three weeks of her career.
“It was an awesome feeling to get that win,” she said leading into the Mountain West tournament. “I need to be playing at my best so we can do some good things as a team. This is the most important time of the year.”
Should Colorado State fare well at the conference tournament then the Rams could qualify for the NCAA Regional in Columbus, Ohio, May 10-12. Another high finish there would mean qualifying for the NCAA Championships May 23-26 in Franklin, Tenn.
If the team doesn’t advance, Espinoza can advance as an individual. As a sophomore she played in the regional as a team member and then as an individual last season.
“It is so much easier to (go to regionals) as a team because you have your teammates there to support and lean on,” she said. “I know we can do it, and hopefully we get it done.”
As Espinoza’s career winds down, she is playing her best golf.
“She is playing really well at the right time,” Colorado State coach Angie Collier said. “She has gotten better every year. Brianna has developed into more of a player than I ever thought she could be.”
Espinoza, who was a state runner-up her senior year at Desert Vista in 2008, was at her best at Ocotillo and was named the Golfweek Golfer of the Week and the Mountain West Player of the Month because of it.
She won the tournament with a record score of 8-under 208, and for good reason. Not only is she playing well, but she had the advantage of playing on the course where she took lessons for about five years.
“I was pretty confident heading into it knowing I was familiar with the course and the surroundings,” she said. “If I didn’t contend it would have been tough to take, but I ended up playing pretty well.”
Espinoza said she is a different golfer than when she was playing for the Thunder and even compared to her freshman year at Colorado State when she averaged 76.7 per round.
“I have changed a lot, especially when it comes to course management,” she said. “When you are young, you are firing at pins all of the time. I’m playing a much smarter type of golf now. I still stick to my roots and I’ll take a risk when it feels good, but now at least I consider a safer shot.”
Collier has been impressed with the transformation, especially because Espinoza is considered a short hitter compared to most Division I players.
“She has been able to overcome (her length off the tee),” Collier said. “She has the short game for it. She plays long irons and hybrids better than anyone we’ve ever had. I wouldn’t let, nor would her teammates attempt, some of the shots she does.
“But she is a much smarter player now than when she was a freshman. It is something we’ve had to work on because she used to be so aggressive and now she is helping the younger players understand it is OK sometimes to just be near or on the green instead of going for the cup.”
Espinoza, who entered the Mountain West tournament averaging a career-best 74.13, which ranked second in the conference, hopes the approach leads to her first appearance at the NCAA tournament, but either way she is ready for the next stage of her life.
She graduates in May with a degree in liberal arts with minors in business and media studies. She has an internship lined up for a television production company in Los Angeles.
But she is hoping for a Hollywood ending to her golf career before moving on to Southern California, where she was born.
“As of right now I need a break from golf,” Espinoza said. “It would definitely be awesome to get to nationals, but however (her career) ends I am ready to see what is next.”
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