If you’re one of the 24 women’s golf teams that had its ticket punched to the NCAA Championship during Wednesday’s final round of the four regionals around the country, you’re a very good golf team.
You need only look at some of the teams that did not advance to the NCAA Championship, which tees off May 19 at Rich Harvest Farms in Spring Grove, Ill., for proof because there are some really, really good teams that won’t be making that trip.
UCLA, No. 2 in the latest Golfstat rankings and coming off a smashing win in the Pac-12 Championship, won’t be there. No. 8 Georgia, playing on its home course at the Athens Regional, didn’t make it. No. 13 Arkansas didn’t make it out of the Columbus Regional. These are teams that, had they made it to Rich Harvest Farms, would have had as good a chance as any of winning a national championship. But they didn’t get there.
No. 3 Alabama will be at Rich Harvest Farms next week as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 14-shot victory in the Athens Regional at the University of Georgia Golf Course. With three players finishing in the top five, Alabama carded a second straight 4-under-par 284 over the 6,344-yard, par-72 UGA layout to finish with a 7-under 857 total.
No. 12 Northwestern got a little revenge for its failure to hold off No. 53 Michigan State at the Big Ten Championship by edging the Spartans by a shot for second place in Athens. The Wildcats fired a final round of 5-under 283 to finish at 7-over 871. Michigan State might be No. 53, might have been seeded 14th in Athens, but all the Spartans know is that they are one of the 24 going to Rich Harvest Farms. They put up a solid final round of 3-over 291 to finish a shot behind their Big Ten rival in third at 8-over 872.
No. 19 Baylor finished fourth, posting a final-round 299 for a 13-over 877 total. No. 39 Clemson had a final-round 298 to nail down fifth at 20-over 884.
In my Tuesday post, I wrote that North Carolina would need something special in Wednesday’s final round to move up to the top six and that’s exactly what Jan Mann got from her Tar Heels. They posted a 1-under 287 to finish at 22-over 886, three shots clear of powerful Georgia for the sixth and final spot.
Two Alabama players, Cheyenne Knight, a sophomore from Aleto, Texas, and Lauren Stephenson, a sophomore from Lexington, S.C., finished tied for second at 5-under 211, five shots behind regional champion Jennifer Kupcho, Wake Forest’s standout sophomore from Westminster, Colo.
Knight carded a 3-under 69 while Stephenson, who hovered around the top of the leaderboard the entire tournament, matched par in the final round. Kristen Gillman, a freshman from Austin, Texas, had a final round of 1-under 71 for the Crimson Tide to finish tied for fifth at 2-under 214.
Also for the Tide, Mia Landegren, a senior from Bridgewater, Conn., finished tied for 24th at 5-over 221 after a final-round 72, and Lakareber Abe, a junior from Angleton, Texas, finished tied for 67th at 231 after a final-round 77.
Kupcho gave Wake Forest some consolation for a promising season that was derailed by injury with her impressive individual victory that will enable her to represent the Demon Deacons as an individual at the national Final. Kupcho added a final-round 68 to rounds of 68 and 70 for a 10-under 206 total.
Also advancing as an individual is the College of Charleston’s Laura Fuenfstueck, a senior from Germany who finished fourth in the individual standings at 3-under 213 after matching par in the final round with a 72.
Joining Alabama’s Gillman in the group tied for fifth at 2-under 214 were Princeton’s Maya Walton, a freshman who, like Gillman, is from Austin, Texas, and Northwestern’s Sarah Cho, a junior from San Diego. Walton fired a final round of 3-under 69 to grab the last of the three individual tickets to Rich Harvest Farms and become just the third Princeton golfer and first freshman to qualify for the national Final. Cho fired a final round of 4-under 68 to spark the Wildcats to their runnerup finish.
The North Carolina website describes freshman Brynn Walker standing around the green at the par-5 ninth, the Tar Heels’ finishing hole, and cheering on her teammates as they tried to give the Heels a cushion in the race for that coveted sixth spot in the team standings.
Walker, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion while at Radnor, will be going to the NCAA Final despite struggling at Athens. She had a 78 Wednesday for a 234 total. But she was supporting her teammates as they registered three birdies and a par on the ninth hole to secure their three-shot margin over Georgia for sixth.
Leslie Cloots, a senior from Belgium, matched par in the final round with a 72 to finish tied for 210th at even-par 216. Bryana Nguyen, a junior from Columbia, Md., carded a 1-under 71 in the final round to finish tied for 19th at 4-over 220. Kelly Whaley, a sophomore from Farmington, Conn., posted a 1-over 73 to finish tied for 37th at 225. And Lexi Harkins, a junior from Crystal Lake, Ill., matched Nguyen’s 1-under 71 in the final round to finish tied for 46th at 226.
Wake Forest’s Sierra Sims, a senior from Austin, Texas – Austin is producing some pretty good female golfers these days – matched par in her final collegiate round to finish tied for 24th at 221. Junior Erica Herr, who won a pair of PIAA Class AAA championships at Council Rock North, struggled in the final round with an 85 to finish tied for 90th at 244. Anna Wears, a sophomore from Durham, N.C., had a final-round 84 and finished 93rd with a 255 total.
At the Albuquerque Regional, top-ranked Stanford completed an impressive run to the team title as the Cardinal posted a final round of 5-over 293 to finish seven shots ahead of No. 9 Duke at 2-over 866 at the University of New Mexico’s South Championship Course.
No. 36 Pepperdine finished third at 15-over 879 and No. 6 Southern California was another five shots behind the Waves in fourth at 20-over 884. No. 26 California and No. 15 Miami grabbed the final two tickets to Rich Harvest Farms as they finished tied for fifth at 24-over 888. Reigning national champion Washington faltered down the stretch and finished eighth.
Stanford also took the individual trophy back to Palo Alto as Albane Valenzuela, a freshman from Stanford and the No. 4 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf ranking, fired a 2-under 70 in the final round over the 6,637-yard, par-72 South Championship Course to claim medalist honors at 6-under 210.
Fellow freshman Andrea Lee, No. 7 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, finished tied for eighth at 2-over 218 after a final round of 1-over 73. Stanford’s two veterans, Casey Danielson, a senior from Osceola, Wis., and Shannon Aubert, a junior from Stuart, Fla., were part of a group tied for 11th at 3-over 219. Danielson had a final-round 74 while Aubert posted a 76.
Rounding out the Stanford contingent, Sierra Kersten, a sophomore from Spokane, Wash., finished tied for 66th at 231 after a final-round 77.
The runnerup to Valenzuela in the individual chase was Pepperdine’s Tatiana Wijaya, a junior from Indonesia. Wijaya carded a 1-under 71 in the final round to finish alone in second at 3-under 213, three shots behind Valenzuela.
The No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf ranking, Duke’s Leona Maguire, a junior from Ireland, was in the field in Albuquerque and finished tied for sixth at 1-over 217 after a final round of 1-under 71.
At the Columbus Regional, No. 4 Florida was caught by Southeast Conference rival South Carolina, ranked 12th, as they shared the team title at 22-over 886. The SEC champion Gators carded a final round of 8-over 296 over The Ohio State University’s 6,416-yard, par-72 Scarlet Course that played extremely tough. The Gamecocks finished with the low team round of the tournament, an even-par 288.
No. 5 Florida State finished third, another five shots behind the co-champions at 27-over 891 after a final-round 294, host Ohio State, ranked 29th, finished fourth at 893 after a final-round 302, No. 27 Purdue finished fifth at 904 after a gritty final round of 297, and No. 33 Michigan grabbed the last ticket to the national Final, finishing sixth at 908 after a final-round 303.
Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware finished 15th at 938 after a final-round 308, the Blue Hens’ best round of the tournament.
It was also a tie at the top for the individual title, appropriately enough between a Gator and a Gamecock. Florida’s Kelly Grassel, a senior from Chesterton, Ind., and South Carolina’s Ana Pelaez, a freshman from Spain, both finished at even-par 216. Grassel and Pelaez both carded a final round of 2-under 70 .
Pelaez’s teammate, SEC champion Katelyn Dambaugh, a senior from Goose Creek, S.C., shared third place with Purdue’s Marta Martin, a junior from Spain, at 1-over 217, a shot behind the co-champions. After struggling in the opening round with a 77, Dambaugh fired a pair of 2-under 70s in the second and third rounds. Martin finished up strong with a 1-under 71.
South Carolina had a third player in the top five as Ainhoa Olarra, a junior from Spain, shared fifth place with Ohio State’s Katja Pogacar at 3-over 219. Olarra gave the Gamecocks a third sub-par round with a 2-under 70 while Pogacar also finished strong with a 2-under 70 on Ohio State’s home course.
Backing up Grassel for the Gators was Marta Perez, a freshman from Spain who finished tied for 11th at 223 after a final-round 75. As tough as the Scarlet Course played, several of the Spaniards in the field seemed to relish the tough conditions. Maria Torres, a senior from Puerto Rico, finished tied for 26th at 223 after a final-round 73, Taylor Tomlinson, a junior from Gainesville, Fla., finished tied for 30th after a final-round 79 and Karolina Vickova, a senior from the Czech Republic, finished tied for 37th at 230 after a final-round 79.
Rounding out the South Carolina contingent, Marion Veusseyre, a sophomore from France, finished tied for 61st at 236 after a final-round 78 and Jia Xin Yang, a senior from China, finished tied for 82nd at 244 after a final-round 81.
A year ago, Purdue’s August Kim, a senior from St. Augustine, Fla., qualified for the NCAA Final as an individual. This time she gets to bring her teammates along for the ride. Kim finished tied for 13th at 224 after a final-round 76.
At the Lubbock Regional, No. 7 Arizona State was the most dominant regional champion as the Sun Devils put up a sizzling final round of 16-under 272 to cruise to a 21-shot victory with a 22-under 842 total.
No. 10 Furman was the runnerup with a 1-under 863 total after a final round of 8-under 280. No. 47 Oregon took third at 3-over 867 after a 4-under 284 in the final round. Big 12 champion Texas, ranked 18th, finished fourth at 5-over 869 after a final-round 290. Host Texas Tech, ranked 34th, finished fifth at 873 after a final-round 291.
Kent State got the last berth in the NCAA Final, finishing sixth at 11-over 875.
Arizona State swept the top three spots in the individual standings, led by regional champion Monica Vaughn, a senior from Reedsport, Ore., and a member of the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team. Vaughn finished up with a 3-under 69 over The Rawls Course, which measured 6,593 and played to a par of 72, for an 8-under 208 total.
Teammate Olivia Mehaffey, a freshman from Ireland, and the No. 9 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, blitzed The Rawls Course layout with a 6-under 66 to finish a shot behind Vaughn at 7-under 209. Linnea Strom, a sophomore from Sweden and the No. 10 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, finished third, another shot behind Mehaffey in third at 6-under 210 after a final round of 5-under 67.
Arizona State’s fourth counter came from Sophia Zeeb, a junior from Germany who carded a 2-under 70 to finish tied for 25th at 4-over 220. The Sun Devils had the luxury of throwing out the even-par 72 registered by Roberta Liti, a junior from Italy. Liti finished tied for 17th at 2-over 218.
Kent State was led by Pimnipa Panthong, a freshman from Thailand who finished alone in fourth place at 5-under 211 after a final-round 69.