NCAA Women's Golf Championships: Washington claims first national title in dramatic fashion
For the Conference of Champions on Wednesday, it was literally a can't-lose situation with Stanford and Washington battling it out in the final round of the 2016 NCAA Women's Golf Championships at Eugene Country Club. But determining which team would take home the title was tougher than anyone could have expected with a pair of matches going to extra holes.
Washington prevailed, 3-2, but not before plenty of drama.
The event in a nutshell: Ying Luo's third shot on the 18th hole. With the overall match tied at one point apiece and in danger of dropping to all square with Stanford's Casey Danielson, the Washington senior holed a 61-yard wedge shot that sent her idle Husky teammates into a frenzy. Luo halved the hole and clinched her match 1-up and earned the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
While the momentum had seemingly swung in Washington's favor, the Cardinal proved they weren't done just yet. Stanford's Mariah Stackhouse forced the the Huskies' hero from Tuesday, Sarah Rhee, to extra holes. UW's Julianne Alvarez had a chance to lock up the title on the 18th green, but three-putted from 20 feet and fell to all square with the Cardinal's Lauren Kim. Off to extra holes.
"[Alvarez] said, 'I'm sorry,'" Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said, recalling the three-putt at 18. "I said 'Sorry?! What?! We get to go play another hole!' That's all I kept saying to Julianne, 'Let's have some fun.'"
Meanwhile Rhee was unable to hold off last year's NCAA hero, falling to Stackhouse on the second playoff hole to even things up at 2-2. All eyes were now on Kim and Alavarez and their extended match.
The freshman from New Zealand won the decisive point for the Huskies on the 20th hole of her match, with a pitch shot that finished inches from the cup and was conceded. Kim needed to get up and down from off the green to extend the match... but her chip ran 10 feet past and her comebacker lipped out, triggering Washington's celebration.
Here's how all five individual matches played out in chronologicial order:
Shannon AUBERT (Stanford) defeats Charlotte THOMAS (Washington), 2&1
Stanford sophomore Shannon Aubert earned the first point of the day, on behalf of the Cardinal. Aubert led by as many as four holes (through 11) before the match tightened up down the home stretch.
Wenyung KEH (Washington) defeats Sierra KERSTEN (Stanford), 4&3
Wenyung Keh evened the match at 1-1 with a decisive win over Sierra Kersten. Keh lost the first hole and none others en route to a decisive win over the Stanford freshman.
Ying LUO (Washington) defeates Casey DANIELSON (Stanford), 1 UP
Luo and Danielson remained in close contact throughout the day leading up to the Washington senior's heroics on 18; they never were separated by more than one hole to that point. Danienlsen drove the ball masterfully all day but Luo evened the playing field with her putting. Luo's lightening bold wedge on 18 put the Huskies up 2-1. The Huskies were leading in one of the remaining matches on the course too. It was looking good for them.
Mariah STACKHOUSE (Stanford) defeats Sarah RHEE (Washington), 1 UP in 20
Rhee, a freshman, faced an uphill battle against steely senior Mariah Stackhouse all day, though she brought plenty of heat. Rhee closed a three-hole gap with four holes to play including hitting the flagstick on 17 and winning her third consecutive hole. But Stackhouse willed in a 10-footer on 18 to extend the match, then won it on their 20th hole with a routine par. The overall match now was even at 2-2 with only Alvarez vs. Kim left on the course.
Julianne ALVAREZ (Washington) defeats Lauren KIM (Stanford), 1 UP in 20
Alvarez's grit in recovering from her three-putt on 18 cannot be overstated here. The freshman's tee shot on the first extra hole was wide left, perhaps still impacted by what had just transpired. After punching back into the fairway, her third shot was tight for an assured four, while Kim ran a potential clinching putt past, then made the comebacker. The match now extended to the scene of the crime: the 18th again. Alvarez's tee shot flared right but hit a tree and fell straight down in play. Her hybrid approach was solidly struck, but 30 yards short. Her pitch landed within two inches, max, and was conceeded. The pressure now was on Kim to get up and down which eluded her. Point, set, match to the Huskies.