It’s easy to say, well Monica Vaughn’s the senior, which makes her the leader on the Arizona State women’s golf team.
Leadership can be displayed in many ways, but none better than being 1-down on the 18th hole of a match your team absolutely has to have and finding a way to pull out the win.
And that happened in the semifinals. Vaughn, a senior from Reedsport, Ore., staved off defeat against Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela, a freshman from Switzerland and the No. 3 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.
After sending the match with Valenzuela to extra holes with a chip that would have went in for eagle if the pin hadn’t been in, Vaughn won the match on the 19th hole. That paved the way for teammate Linnea Strom, a sophomore from Sweden, to win her match with Stanford’s Madi Chou, a freshman from Santa Ana, Calif., with a dagger of an approach on the 19th hole.
Stanford, No. 1 in the latest Golfstat rankings, looked like it was headed for a third straight trip to the final match with Valenzuela 1-up in the 18th fairway when play was called because of darkness Tuesday night at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. Vaughn, who had claimed the individual national championship Monday, had other ideas.
No. 7 Arizona State claimed a 3-2 win over its Pac-12 rival to advance to Wednesday’s championship match against No. 12 Northwestern, which itself had rallied earlier in the day to claim a hard-fought 3-2 win over the third Pac-12 team in the semifinals, No. 6 Southern California.
By the end of the day, it was the Sun Devils recording the eighth national championship in their storied history with a 3.5-1.5 victory over Northwestern.
Strom, No. 11 in the WAGR, applied the finishing touch with a birdie on the 15th hole, her third in four holes, to defeat Stephanie Lau, a sophomore from Fullerton, Calif., 5 and 3.
The Pac-12 was so good this year that Arizona State finished sixth in the conference championship, but was still seeded second in the Lubbock Regional. The Sun Devils proceeded to demolish the field in Lubbock with a 22-under 842 total at The Rawls Course.
Vaughn was the individual champion by a shot over teammate Olivia Mehaffey, a freshman from Ireland and the No. 9 player in the WAGR, with Strom another shot back in third.
The Sun Devils survived the brutal conditions that hit the 6,343-yard, par-72 Rich Harvest Farms layout on Day 1 of the NCAA Championship Friday and steadily moved up the leaderboard, grabbing a berth in match play with a 1-over 289, one of the best team rounds of the tournament, in the final round.
Vaughn and her future teammate Mehaffey were on different sides when the United States lost to Mehaffey’s Great Britain & Ireland team in the Curtis Cup Match last year, 11.5-9.5. They met twice Saturday, once in a foursomes match and once in a four-ball match, and Mehaffey won both.
Vaughn, No. 15 in the WAGR, was happy Mehaffey was on her team this time.
All Mehaffey did was take out Stanford’s Andrea Lee, a freshman from Hermosa Beach, Calif. and No. 8 in the WAGR, 2 and 1 for a key win in the semifinals.
When Arizona State wanted to keep the momentum from its dramatic semifinal win going in the final against Northwestern, Mehaffey defeated Sarah Cho, a junior from San Diego, 4 and 3.
In addition to Strom’s clinching win, the Sun Devils got a 5 and 4 victory from Roberta Liti, a junior from Italy, over Northwestern’s Janet Mao, a sophomore from Johns Creek, Ga. It was Mao who drained a clutch par putt on the 19th hole that gave her a victory over Southern Cal’s Gabriella Then, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and sent the Wildcats to the title match.
Vaughn was waiting to see if she needed to go extra holes with Hannah Kim, a junior from Chula Vista, Calif., after battling Kim to a stalemate through 18 holes when Strom’s winning putt dropped in.
Northwestern got a full point from Kacie Komoto, a senior from Honolulu, Hawaii who wrapped up a wonderful career with the Wildcats by defeating Sophia Zeeb, a junior from Germany, 3 and 1.
Let’s give Arizona State head coach Missy Farr-Kaye a little credit, too. If you’ve been paying attention she’s got a five that includes an American, an Irish woman, a German, an Italian and a Swede. Five players from five different countries hoisted one NCAA Championship trophy Wednesday.
It was a bit of a gamble for Farr-Kaye to put Strom, who has been playing well for a while, in the anchor spot against Stanford. She needed her first four to make that match matter.
And Vaughn did just that. That’s leadership.