Agathe Laisne, Texas; Maria Fassi, Arkansas; Bianca Pagdanganan, Arizona; Auston Kim, Vanderbilt
NCAA women’s regionals are 54 holes of high-pressure golf – sometimes ending with bigger upsets and more surprises than the national championship itself. It’s no guarantee that the top teams get to the national championship in this format. Plenty of can’t-miss teams have been on the outside looking in.
Seventy-two teams were divided among four regional sites this week, with play starting Monday, May 6 and ending Wednesday, May 8. Only six teams advanced from each site to set up the 24-team national championship field.
Here's how it all played out.
NCAA South Regional (Saugahatchee CC, Auburn, Ala.)
Vanderbilt (4-under 860)
Vanderbilt, Florida State, Duke, Virginia, Auburn, Tennessee
Auston Kim, Vanderbilt (6-under 210)
Linette Holmslykke, Murray State; Virunpat Olankitkunchai, Maryland; Angelica Moresco, Alabama
Nothing is a given in NCAA Regionals, so despite coming in with four regular-season titles, Vanderbilt still had much to prove. The Commodores haven’t been to the national championship since 2014, when they won a regional to get there, but Wednesday marks the end of an unwanted streak. When Vanderbilt goes to Fayetteville, Ark., for the NCAA Women’s Championship later this month, not one player will have prior experience there. Put another way, Vanderbilt has never experienced the NCAA finals in the match-play era.
Vanderbilt’s 8-under 280 in Wednesday’s final round was the best score of the day. It moved the Commodores two spots up the leaderboard, not that they were in danger of missing the cut anyway.
Earlier this season, head coach Greg Allen pointed to the energy that second-year assistant coach Emilie Meason (nee Berger) brought to this team. Meason, along with three freshmen who came in last year – plus this year’s wonder-freshman, Auston Kim – provided a spark that carried all the way to the postseason.
As Allen pointed out earlier in the season, it’s not just about getting there. Now it’s about remaining in the conversation.
Coach Greg Allen says:
“They’ve had an unbelievable year. I think today’s results really shows a lot about the SEC and really the ACC. It’s our job as a coach to set them up against good competition all year so that when you get to the regional, it doesn’t feel any different than any other tournament.”
That was close:
Auburn spent a good chunk of the day teetering around the cutline, but the home team played Nos. 8 through 11 in 5 under then held on. At the end of the day, a 3-under 285 was enough to move them one spot up to fifth and safely through to the national championship.
East Carolina dropped three spots on the leaderboard to eighth, effectively falling outside the cut with a round of 7 over. An eighth-place finish is still the Pirates’ best at this event after ninth-place finishes in 2009 and 2016. Last year at the Austin, Texas, regional, East Carolina went down for the count with a mystery plague that swept through the field.
NCAA Central Regional (Jimmie Austin OU GC, Norman, Okla.)
Texas (9-under 855)
Texas, Florida, Wake Forest, Purdue, Arizona State, Ole Miss
Kaitlin Milligan, Oklahoma; Olivia Mehaffey, Arizona State (8-under 208)
Milligan and Michaela Fletcher, Memphis; Amanda Hollandsworth, Virginia Tech
Texas has played like a No. 1 squad this season, and made the most of a No. 1 seed and a favorable regional assignment in Oklahoma. The Longhorns were one of only two teams under par on a soggy day where play was delayed then scrambled into a shotgun start.
Remarkably, Texas has never won one of these. Only two other teams in school history have won as many times – five – as this current Longhorn squad. Texas goes into the national championship as a real title contender after that kind of season. There’s a lot of depth here, so if Texas could make the match-play bracket, it’s exactly the kind of team that could fare well in that format.
Coach Ryan Murphy says:
"I didn't realize that we hadn't won a regional. That's pretty cool. All of that stuff adds up to belief and confidence going forward. It can only help us. Every time you win, it adds confidence. This is the second time we've won against a really great field. I think all the doubts in their mind should be gone. If they didn't know already, they do now – we're a pretty good team."
That was close:
The Ole Miss program has turned a corner. Things that seemed remarkable even last season now seem commonplace, like qualifying for the national championship. When the Rebels got in last year, for the first time in program history, it seemed like a fun thing to celebrate and then move on. After winning the SEC Championship in match play last month, Ole Miss is a program that has to be taken seriously – especially if they find their way into the top 8. Ole Miss advanced by a three-shot margin over Texas Tech in seventh place.
Never count out Devon Brouse’s Purdue teams. There was a period where Purdue contended annually at the national championship – and of course Purdue won the national title in 2010. This is the 18th time in program history that Purdue has advanced as a team.
NCAA West Regional (Tumble Creek Club, Cle Elum, Wash.)
USC (20-under 844)
USC, Washington, Northwestern, Arkansas, San Jose State, UCF
Jennifer Chang, USC (11-under 205)
Kathleen Scavo, Oregon; Aneka Seumanutafa, Ohio State; Ellie Slama, Oregon
UCF has spent its season on the bubble. The Knights’ head-to-head record took a hit from early 11th- and 12th-place finishes, but this team clawed back. Advancing from the No. 13 seed on the opposite side of the country (re: a totally foreign venue) says a lot for this program.
UCF bounced all around the cutline on Wednesday, but when the day was over, one shot separated the Knights from the right side and the wrong side. This marks the first time since the 1995-96 season that UCF has advanced to the national championship.
That was close:
Despite dropping two spots on the leaderboard, San Jose State still advanced to its 21st national championship. The team finished two shots above UCF and three above Ohio State in seventh. It went down to the wire. The only bad news? Head coach Dana Dormann had qualified to play the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, but it overlaps the national championship. She’ll accompany her team instead of playing – and something says it’s a fine compromise.
Make that 13 NCAA Regional titles for USC, which won wire-to-wire and at double digits under par. This marks the seventh tournament title for USC this season under first-year head coach Justin Silverstein. According to USC research, that’s a record for a first-year head coach.
“Patience has been a staple of this team all season and we showed it again this week with a consistent three days of play,” Silverstein said.
NCAA East Regional (Forest Akers West GC, East Lansing, Mich.)
Kent State (4-under 860)
Kent State, Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Illinois, Indiana
Patty Tavatanakit, UCLA (8-under 208)
Haylin Harris, Michigan State; Mikayla Fitzpatrick, Xavier; Allyson Geer-Park, Michigan State
This one comes from the bottom of the leaderboard, where Illinois earned its first national championship berth in program history. That’s been a recurring storyline these past few years as more and more teams see the NCAA finals for the first time. Illinois advanced from the No. 7 seed, and certainly benefited from a Midwest regional assignment (as did Indiana, which slipped into the sixth and final position behind the Illini).
Head coach Renee Slone says:
"Exciting day for Illinois Women's Golf. The team displayed a strong spirit and exuded positivity throughout the round. Their energy was contagious, and they maintained their focus on what was right in front of them and were able to let previous shots go better today. I am very proud of this team and the standards they have set for this program."
That was close:
Another Midwest school had a big day in East Lansing, too. Indiana has been to the national championship before, but not since 2007. On Wednesday, the Hoosiers edged Michigan State, the host team, by three shots to advance. Make that two close calls for Indiana, which was the last at-large team to earn a bid into regionals and advanced as the No. 14 seed.
Kent State’s resume keeps growing. On Wednesday, the Golden Flashes added their first regional title in program history. To do it, the team counted five birdies and seven pars on the final three holes. This is the third year in a row Kent State has advanced to the national championship, and for the record, the team made match play the last two years.