With just 33 days until the 2013 U.S. Open tees off at Merion Golf Club’s East Course (and the 2011-12 Daily Times Player of the Year from Sun Valley Braden Shattuck has put himself in position to get a shot at being in the field, a story I’ll be working on this week), it was a big weekend on the NCAA women’s golf front.
Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion as a senior at Chichester, and her Purdue teammates will be taking a lot of momentum to the NCAA Tournament May 21-24 at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga., after a strong second-place finish to top-ranked Southern California at this weekend’s West Regional Tournament.
It took something of a miraculous finish by the Trojans to edge the Boilermakers by a single shot, 859-860, for the team title.
All Southern Cal needed was a school-record 8-under 63 from freshman Kyung Kim and a 3-under 68 from freshman Annie Park, which enabled her to share individual honors with Purdue senior Paula Reto. Kim was a prize recruit for the Trojans, but all she did Saturday was rattle off nine birdies, including four straight from holes 14 to 17, to give Southern Cal its fourth straight reigional crown.
There were plenty of heroes for Purdue, led by Reto, the native of South Africa. Reto flashed her talent with a final round of 5-under 66 that included five birdies and no bogeys over the 6,267-yard, par-71 Stanford Golf Course in Stanford, Calif. Combined with her first two rounds of 71 and 69, it gave Reto a 7-under 206 and a share of first place with USC’s Park, who had rounds of 67 and 71 before her final-round 68.
Reto’s total broke her own school record for a 54-hole event by a shot.
Reto led the way as Purdue put up rounds of 291, 285 and 283 for its 859 total. Going into the final day, Purdue had held a one-shot edge on Vanderbilt and led USC by two shots. Led by Park and Kim, the Trojans made up the difference with a final-round 280. Purdue certainly didn’t blow this tournament, USC had to be very, very good to beat the Boilermakers.
Purdue’s freshman phenom, Belgian Margaux Vanmol, was at her best at Stanford with steady rounds of 74, 72 and 70 for a 3-over 216 total that gave her a share of 10th place.
Redshirt senior Kishi Sinha, a native of India, was also solid with rounds of 74,72 and 73 for a 219 total that left her in a tie for 22nd. Senior Laura Gonzalez-Escallon, like Vanmol, a native of Belgium, finished in a tie for 33rd with rounds of 72,76 and 74 for a 222 total.
Kan, a sophomore and a three-time Daily Times Player of the Year at Chichester, rounded out the Purdue contingent in a tie for 39th, a shot back of Gonzalez-Escallon. Kan had rounds of 75, 73 and 75 for a 223 total.
Vanderbilt couldn’t keep up with the torrid pace established by USC and Purdue, but easily earned third with a final-round 291 for an 869 total.
The top eight teams earned spots in the NCAA Tournament and after the top three, the qualifiers were South Carolina (874), host Stanford (875) and Arizona, Oregon and San Jose St., all of whom finished in a tie for sixth at 889.
Purdue will be joined at the NCAA Tournament by fellow Big Ten teams Michigan St., Northwestern and Wisconsin. Northwestern, which shared the Big Ten Tournament team title with Purdue, finished sixth in the East Regional Tournament. Wisconsin and Michigan St. were seventh and eighth, respectively, at the Central Regional Tournament.