The Ole Miss Women's golf team broke through at TPC Harding Park (Ole Miss photo)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 9, 2018) - Entering the final round of the TPC Harding Park-hosted NCAA Regional, the leaderboard was entirely too tight for any team to feel truly comfortable. At the end of the day on Wednesday, arguably the most gut-wrenching moment was the realization that NCAA Championship-host Oklahoma State had missed qualifying for the finals by one shot.
Teams around the cut line jockeyed for position all day, and though Oklahoma State began the day in the sixth position, a round of 2-over 290 wasn’t good enough to maintain it. Ultimately, Louisville and Colorado bumped the Cowgirls for a spot in the national-championship field in Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma State will send one individual, Emma Broze, who had to outlast North Carolina’s Laura Kowohl in a sudden-death playoff.
The title itself went to Stanford, which finished at 8-under 856. It’s the third straight NCAA Regional title for the Cardinal, but the first victory this season. Top-seeded UCLA was right behind that at 4 under.
More interesting, and unexpected, was the third-place team. Ole Miss drew the No. 10 seed entering this tournament, but hung on tightly for its first national-championship berth in the program’s 32-year history. Freshman Julia Johnson fired 5-under 67 in the final round and helped the Rebels move up one spot on the leaderboard on Wednesday.
“It’s been the most unbelievable year,” Johnson said after the round. Ole Miss has shattered its previous program scoring records this season, and this helps solidify the team as one of the best in the Rebel record books.
“It was absolutely incredible to see all the girls pull through,” head coach Kory Henkes said. “Everyone just stayed calm, cool and collected and came out and did what we needed to do today. To finish third in this strong field – it’s amazing.”
Louisville, right behind Ole Miss at even par for the week, had to climb into the top 6 on Wednesday. The team started the day in seventh but posted its lowest-ever regional score to put itself in position to advance for the first time since 2007.
Kent State and Colorado rounded out the top 6 in San Francisco. Kent State also advanced last year, even making it to the match-play bracket, but Colorado has not seen the national championship since advancing for the first time in 2012. The Buffs know their share of heartbreak in this format after falling short by a single stroke each of the past two years.
“We have been on the other side of the bubble the last two years and it feels good to be on this side,” head coach Anne Kelly said.
ROUND TWO RECAP
Kent State at TPC Harding Park
Even though Kent State has a share of the lead after two days of NCAA Regional play, there is a noticeable difference between the Golden Flashes’ scorecards and those of other leading teams at regional sites across the country. Kent State has not had a player post a lightning round at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Instead, the players in this lineup are all in a tight cluster around par.
It goes to show that a team effort can also get it done in the postseason.
On a long day in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kent State and Stanford passed UCLA to take a share of the lead into the final day of regional play. The two teams, which both made match play at last year’s national championship, sit at 2-under 574. They are only one shot clear of top-seeded UCLA.
Kent State sophomore Karoline Stormo has been the top scorer for her team this week. She began the second round with a bogey, but played the next 15 holes in 1 under. She is 1 under for the tournament and tied for 12th, with teammates Pimnipa Panthong and Michaela Finn tied for 19th at even par.
Stanford, meanwhile, has two players tied for second at 4 under: Andrea Lee and Ziyi Wang.
With so much on the line, it’s a tight grouping at the top. Things don’t spread out much the farther down the leaderboard you look, either. Ole Miss and Oregon are tied for fourth at 1 over, and Oklahoma State is sixth at 4 over.
For Ole Miss, a national-championship berth would be the icing on a dream season. This team has broken program record after program record in winning three times. Oregon, meanwhile, came into this tournament as the No. 14 seed. After two rounds at the four regional sites, Oregon is one of three No. 14 seeds currently among the top 6. Virginia Tech is T-4 in Austin, Texas, and Oregon State is T-4 in Madison, Wis.
Oklahoma State is the team with maybe the most pressure, but it responded well on Tuesday. The Cowgirls are set to host the national championship at their home course, Karsten Creek, in Stillwater, Okla., later this month. It would be a fitting ending to the careers of the three seniors on Oklahoma State’s squad. The Cowgirls have only a one-shot lead on Louisville and North Carolina, tied for seventh at 5 over, and a two-shot cushion on Colorado and Pepperdine, tied for ninth at 6 over.
ROUND ONE RECAP
UCLA's Mariel Galdiano
It’s not often that the No. 1 seed in NCAA regional play has an opportunity – or a need – to pull off an act of redemption. But when it failed to advance to the national championship last year as a top seed, UCLA became the poster child for all that can go wrong on an uncertain road to the finals. Much has been made of that in the past few days as the one-year anniversary approaches. Regardless, UCLA plays on.
The Bruins are less than two weeks removed from winning the Pac-12 Championship for the seventh time in program history, and on Monday they continued that streak of good play with an opening round of 8-under 280 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. It was a postcard day to mark the start of postseason, and three UCLA players used it as a back-drop for rounds under par. Mariel Galdiano is tied for first at 6-under 66 while Patty Tavatanakit is in solo fourth (4-under 68) and Lilia Vu is tied for 10th (1-under 71).
UCLA’s record sets the team apart this year. There have been six team victories, and the Bruins haven’t finished outside the top 3 yet. At Harding Park, however, a couple of cold-weather schools kept pace nicely. Kent State, which qualified for match play last year at the NCAA Championship, is tied for second with Colorado at 4-under 284.
Kent State has a conference dynasty of its own, having won its 20th MAC Championship last month. The Golden Flashes have built on that, however, by going deeper and deeper into the postseason. So far this year, Kent State has posted a round of par or better 11 times. In terms of scoring, the Golden Flashes are fourth in the nation in first-round scoring average. That helped them set a good pace in San Francisco, but the next two rounds are what count. Kent State's story on Monday was one of consistency. The team led scoring on the par 4s.
Three teams made it to 1 under on Monday and hold a share of fourth. Louisville joins Pac-12 programs Stanford and Oregon in that mix. The most urgent storyline outside of Monday’s top 6 is NCAA Championship host Oklahoma State. The Cowgirls have 36 holes to make up the ground needed to advance to the national championship at their home course, Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.