by Beth Ann Baldry
WILMINGTON, N.C. – Devon Brouse has waited a long
time for this moment. In fact, he waited longer than
any other coach in the NCAA Women’s Championship
field. The Purdue coach delivered the Big Ten
Conference its first national title Friday with a nail-
biting one-stroke victory over USC at the Country Club
of Landfall. He may have even shed a tear.
Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, a junior Brouse DQ’d earlier this
spring for unsportsmanlike conduct (i.e. throwing
clubs, not trying), led the Boilermakers to victory with
a 1-under 71. The hot-tempered Canadian played with
incredible poise over the Dye Course, looking cool with
her collar popped and birdies dropping.
“She looked calm out there,” Brouse said. “She didn’t
have adverse reactions to bad shots, she just played
the next one. Holy smokes, I’ve spent three years
trying to get her to do that. That’s what professionals
Oklahoma State’s Caroline Hedwall made good as
Golfweek’s top-ranked collegian by winning the
individual title. The sophomore from Sweden shot 70-
70-68-68 to finish 12 under, four strokes ahead of
Arizona State’s Jennifer Johnson. Hedwall plans to turn
professional after the summer.
Purdue’s sizable lead on Friday was eliminated on the
back as Thea Hoffmeister went from 2 under to 4 over
in four holes. The 15th hole caused the Boilermakers
considerable grief, but it did the same for USC as well.
Hoffmeister redeemed herself with a 4-foot birdie putt
on the 18th hole to get back to 3 over, which turned
out big for Purdue as freshman Laura Gonzalez-
Escallon bogeyed the last two holes.
“Best birdie you’ve made in your life,” Brouse told
Hoffmeister as she came over to hug him after the
Numa Gulyanamitta, playing in the penultimate group,
received a drop from an embedded lie on No. 18 when
her ball plugged in the left rough. She hacked out to a
spot behind a tree and was forced to punch a 5-iron to
the middle of the green. A solid two-putt later,
Gulyanamitta shot 74 and Purdue held a one-shot lead
with one group left to play.
LeBlanc, hot off two tremendous up-and-downs on
Nos. 15 and 16, dumped her third shot into the bunker
on the 18th and faced a tough lie. Meanwhile, USC’s
Jennifer Song was just short of the green in two.
LeBlanc blasted out to 15 feet and missed the par
putt. Song had a chance to tie with a 10-foot birdie
putt but left with a heartbreaking par.
“It was just really upsetting that we have to come in
second place as a team and that’s how it’s going to
end,” said Song, who will leave USC after two seasons
to turn professional. USC coach Andrea Gaston spent a
long time consoling Song behind the 18th green as
bagpipes serenaded an impressively large gallery.
“She felt like it was her fault, of course,” Gaston said.
“Each one of them tells me which hole they feel
responsible for. I told them it’s a team loss.”
When Gaston looked at the Central Regional field
several weeks ago, she felt they would face the
nation’s two best teams in ASU and Purdue. The
Boilermakers, in the midst of final exams, were
admittedly unprepared that week and finished a distant
In the week between events, however, they worked
exceptionally hard, sometimes 12 hours a day. Brouse,
who also coaches the men’s team at Purdue, set up a
battle of the sexes last week that proved tremendously
motivating for his team, particularly the veterans.
“I manipulated the tees and the pins,” Brouse said. “I
told them ‘If you don’t show up to play today, you’re
going to get your butts kicked.’ They responded.”
After beating the Purdue men, the women’s team
headed South and put together a third-round 280 that
set them up beautifully for the final round.
“That round (Thursday) was everything,” Gaston said.
Four Purdue players were under par, led by Gonzalez-
Auburn paired with Purdue’s all-international squad the
first two rounds and Tigers coach Kim Evans sensed
the Boilermakers had the ability to put an end to the
“I’m telling you they were right on target from the
beginning,” Evans said.
Auburn was the favored SEC school entering the week,
but it was Alabama that produced a school-best third-
place finish. The Tide’s 286 was Friday’s low round.
Arizona State, the favorite for most of the season and
the defending NCAA champs, struggled on the back
nine. The Sun Devils placed a disappointing fourth.
Coming into the week, LeBlanc set a goal of having
four solid rounds. She usually has one round she’d
rather forget, but not this time. In fact, LeBlanc met all
of the goals she set for herself (crack the top 10,
finish under par).
It’s easy to have a good attitude when things are
going well, but LeBlanc knows she has learned from a
coach who treats his players the same way he treats
his own kids.
“I’m not doing my job if I don’t help them grow,”
Brouse said. “I’m not winning a popularity contest as a
LeBlanc said Brouse has taught her how to push
herself, manage her time and be more disciplined. She
plans to come back next year to finish her degree in
“I’m going to stay here as long as I can,” she said. “I
still have a lot to learn.”