Texas, No. 7 in the latest Golfstat rankings, made its postseason intentions clear with a hard-fought victory in the Big 12 Championship, which concluded Sunday at the Dallas Athletic Club’s Blue Course.
Only 12 shots separated the top five finishers in a conference with rivalries – in all sports – as intense as any in college athletics. It was the second straight Big 12 title for the Longhorns and their fifth overall.
Texas trailed No. 36 Baylor by four after posting a 4-over 292 over the 6,215-yard, par-72 Blue Course layout in Friday’s opening round. The Longhorns carded a 4-over 292 in the second round to build a four-shot lead over No. 17 Oklahoma State and finished up with a 5-over 293 for a 16-over 880 total that was eight shots clear of Oklahoma State and Baylor, which shared second at 24-over 888.
No. 28 Iowa State, led by individual champion Celia Barquin Arozamena, a senior from Spain, was another shot behind Oklahoma State and Baylor in fourth at 889. It was three more shots back to No. 18 Oklahoma, which finished fifth at 892.
Texas was led by Emilee Hoffman, a sophomore from Folsom, Calif. who was the runnerup in the Big 12 Championship for the second straight year. With a shaky weather forecast for Saturday, there was a double-round Friday and Hoffman bettered par in each of them with a 1-under in the morning and a 2-under 70 in the afternoon that gave her a three-shot lead over Arozamena.
Hoffman slipped back a little with a 3-over 75 in Sunday’s final round, but still claimed the runnerup spot at even-par 216.
Kaitlyn Papp, the Austin home girl who is at or near the head of a remarkable freshman class all around the country, was her usual steady self, finishing tied for fourth at 3-over 219. Papp had a pair of 74s in Friday’s double-round before finishing up with a 1-under 71.
Among the three players tied for eighth was Texas’ Sophia Schubert, a senior from Oak Ridge, Tenn. and the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. Schubert trailed Hoffman by four after a 2-under 70 in Friday afternoon’s second round before falling back with a final-round 77 that left her at 6-over 222.
The No. 19 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Schubert was chosen last week to represent the United States in the Curtis Cup Match against Great Britain & Ireland in June at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. She is the perfect senior leader for a team brimming with talented youngsters.
Greta Isabella Voelker, a sophomore from Germany, finished tied for 22nd at 228 after a final-round 74.
Rounding out the Texas lineup was Agathe Laisne, a freshman from France who finished tied for 26th at 229. Laisne is as talented a No. 5 as any team has in the country. She won the European Ladies Championship last summer and has qualified for match play in each of the last two U.S. Women’s Amateurs. She has been inconsistent, but her final-round 73 was Texas’ second-best score of the day and the kind of round she is capable of on any given day.
Arozamena, playing in her final Big 12 Championship, matched the low individual round of the tournament in the final round with a 3-under 69 that enabled her to surge past Hoffman and capture the title with a 3-under 213 total. She was the only player in the talented field to finish under par for the weekend.
Oklahoma State’s Chih-Min Chen finished third at 2-over 218, two shots behind Hofffman. Chen opened with a 2-under 70, added a 75 Friday afternoon and finished up with a 1-over 73.
Joining Papp in the tie for fourth at 3-over 219 was Oklahoma veteran Hannah Wood, a senior from Centennial, Colo. Wood finished strong with a 1-under 71.
A couple of Baylor freshmen grabbed the next two spots as Diana Ballieux of Belgium finished sixth and Gurleen Kaur of Houston took seventh. Ballieux followed up an opening-round 70 with a pair of 75s to finish sixth at 220 and Kaur finished up with a 1-over 73 to end up at 221.
Another Baylor player, Maria Vesga, a junior from Colombia, joined Schubert and Oklahoma’s Valerie Tanguay, a senior from Canada, in the tie for eighth at 222. Vesga matched the low round of the championship when she opened with a 69. She finished up with a 77 Friday afternoon and a 76 Sunday.
Tanguay matched par in the final round with a 72 to join the trio at 6-over 222.
Texas will get to stay at home as the host team for the Austin Regional. But if Oklahoma State can get through whatever regional it ends up in, the Cowgirls will be right at home for the NCAA Championship at their home course, Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
Oklahoma State lost senior Maddie McCrary to the professional ranks during the midseason break. As I’ve mentioned before, you’re looking for players whose goal it is to play at the highest level of the game and the Cowgirls aren’t the only team to lose a player of McCrary’s caliber since the fall portion of the campaign.
Some of the Big 12 teams might not sport the high rankings that some of their Pac-12 and Southeast Conference sisters do, but they can play and they’re going to have the kind of support that helped carry Northwestern all the way to the Final Match last spring at Rich Harvest Farms.