When you stage the inaugural Gifford Great 8 Collegiate Match Play Championship at Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles, well, there’s a pretty good shot you’ll see the ancient cross-town rivals and two of the very best teams in Division I women’s golf, UCLA and Southern California, square off in the title match.
And it was close as you would expect it might be Tuesday with the Bruins, No. 9 in the latest Golfstat rankings, pulling out a 3-2 victory over No. 2 Southern Cal. All five matches went to the 18th hole and two of them ended in draws.
UCLA’s Clare Legaspi, a freshman from the Philippines, trailed Southern Cal’s Robynn Ree, a sophomore from Redondo Beach, Calif., 2-up, but rallied to get a half for what turned out to be the half-point that tipped the match in the Bruins’ favor.
The NCAA Championship changed its format a couple of years ago with the last eight survivors from stroke play advancing to match play to determine the team champion. That brought about the creation of events like the Gifford Great 8 to give the top teams a taste of match play to prepare them in case they find themselves in just that situation at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. in May.
Lilia Vu, a sophomore from Fountain Valley, Calif. and probably UCLA’s best player, pulled out a hard-fought 1-up decision over Gabriella Then, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Erin Choi, a junior from Torrance, Calif., grabbed another full point for the Bruins with a 1-up victory over Muni He, a freshman from San Diego.
Tiffany Chan, a senior from Hong Kong, got a full point for the Trojans when she edged Mariel Galdiano, a freshman from Pearl City, Hawaii, 1-up.
UCLA’s Bethany Wu, a sophomore from Diamond Beach, Calif., pulled out a half-point as she battled Victoria Morgan, a redshirt junior from Pasadena, Calif., to a draw.
Galdiano, the qualifying medalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club last summer, and Wu were teammates on the United States team that fell to a strong Great Britain & Ireland side in the Curtis Cup Match last year in Ireland, as pressure-packed a match-play situation as an amateur golfer can face.
Vu, though, was the leading lady for the Bruins in the Gifford Great 8.
She dusted No. 36 Colorado’s Kirsty Hodgkins, a freshman from Australia, 7 and 6, in the Bruins’ 3-2 victory over their Pac-12 rival in a Monday afternoon match. Galdiano added a 4 and 3 win over Robyn Choi, also a freshman from Australia, and Erin Choi and Wu gained a half-point each with draws to send UCLA to the final.
In Monday morning’s opening round, Vu cruised to a 6 and 4 win over No. 40 Oregon’s Amy Matsuoka, a freshman from Newport Beach, Calif., to spark the Bruins in a 4-1 win over another Pac-12 rival. Legaspi, Wu and Galdiano added victories for UCLA.
Southern Cal reached the final with a 3.5-1.5 win over No. 23 Purdue in the semifinals. The Trojans got wins from He, Chan and Ree and a half-point for Then’s draw with Purdue’s Covadonga SanJuan, a sophomore from Spain. Reigning Big Ten champion August Kim got a full point for the Boilermakers.
Southern Cal opened up with a 3-2 win over No. 69 Oregon State on the strength of wins by He, Chan and Ree.
The opening round also featured a showdown between two of the Big Ten’s strongest teams, Purdue and No. 26 Ohio State, the reigning conference co-champion. The Boilermakers advanced to the semifinals with a 3.5-1.5 victory over the Buckeyes with three of the matches halved.
Kim claimed a 2-up win over Katja Pogacor, a senior from Slovenia, and Micaela Farah, a freshman from Peru, gave the Boilermakers another full point with a 2 and 1 win over Niki Schroeder, a sophomore from Avon Lake, Ohio. Purdue’s Marta Martin, a junior from Spain, earned a half-point by battling Jessica Porvasnik, a senior from Hinckley, Ohio who reached the round of 16 at Rolling Green last summer, to a draw. SanJuan and Linn Andersson, a junior from Sweden, also halved their matches.
Colorado earned its ticket to the semifinals with a bit of an upset -- if there is such a thing when you’re talking about match play – when the Buffaloes upended No. 8 Georgia 3-2. Colorado got wins from Robyn Choi, Esther Lee, a senior from Los Alamitos, Calif., and Brittany Fan, a junior from Pearl City, Hawaii in knocking off the Bulldogs.
In addition to the title match, Tuesday featured some tightly contested consolation finals.
Colorado, getting wins from Hodgkins, Lee and Gillian Vance, a sophomore from Lakewood, Colo., took third place with a 3-2 win over Purdue. For the Boilermakers, Kim capped a perfect 3-0 run in the Gifford Great 8, improving her collegiate match-play record to 8-2-1, with a win. Martin also won her match for the Boilers.
Ohio State and Georgia reached the fifth-place match with consolation-round wins over Oregon St. (3-2) and Oregon (4-1), respectively.
The Buckeyes and the Bulldogs battled to a 2.5-2.5 deadlock and were still tied via the first tiebreaker, which is matches won. Ohio State was awarded fifth place because Porvasnik’s 3 and 2 win over Rinko Mitsunaga, a sophomore from Roswell, Ga., was the first match won. Porvasnik had a win and halved two matches and was named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week Wednesday for her showing in the Gifford Great 8.
Pogacor pulled out a crucial half-point by battling Jillian Hollis, a sophomore from Rocky River, Ohio, to a draw.
Georgia’s Bailey Tardy, a sophomore from Peachtree Corners, Ga., completed a 3-0 week with a 1-up win over Jaclyn Lee, a sophomore from Canada. Tardy is another member of the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team that was in the Gifford Great 8 field.
The seventh-place match pitted in-state rivals Oregon State and Oregon and they also battled to a 2.5-2.5 tie with the edge going to the Beavers on the first tiebreaker, matches won.
Olivia Benzin, a sophomore from Tacoma, Wash., and Nichole Schroeder, a freshman from Rocklin, Calif., each posted 3 and 2 wins that helped give Oregon State its 6-5 edge in holes won. The Beavers also got a half-point from Elyse Smidinger, a senior from Crofton, Md.