The beauty, fickleness and drama of match play were on full display in the women's semifinals of the East Lake Cup on Tuesday.
Hailee Cooper's walk-off eagle on the 18th hole in her match against UCLA's Emilie Paltrinieri sent third-ranked (Golfweek/Sagarin) Texas A&M into Wednesday's championship against SEC foe Auburn, which shocked Oregon, thanks to a stunning comeback by redshirt freshman Casey Weidenfeld.
Texas A&M had its hands full with UCLA, a team that struggled to an 18-over finish in stroke play to land the fourth seed.
With East Lake Cup medalist Blanca Fernández García-Poggio and Zoe Slaughter winning their respective matches handily, Zoe Campos and Caroline Canales put two points on the board for the Bruins, leaving Cooper and Paltrinieri to decide things.
The two players were never separated by more than a hole and the match was all square heading into the par-5 18th.
A fortuitous bounce left Cooper's second shot in front of the green which set up her chip shot that went the length of the green and trickled broke right into the hole to send the Tigers into Wednesday's title match.
"Hailee's match went back-and-forth all day long," Texas A&M head coach Gerrod Chadwell said. "She stepped up and hit a great shot down the middle on 18 off the tee after going all square on 17. Then her eagle shot on 18 was incredible. We really felt like UCLA was going to hit that par putt, so to finish off that match was dramatic and fun.
"I didn't think we played at the top of our game today. We need to sharpen some stuff up for tomorrow and that gets me excited to have the chance to clean our game up for a championship."
It looked for the longest time Texas A&M would face Oregon in the championship match until a 360-degree lip-out putt changed the Ducks' fortunes.
Oregon's Cindy Lou was seemingly in control of her match against Casey Weidenfeld, leading 2 up with three holes to play. Both players had makeable birdie putts on the 16th and after Weidenfeld drained hers, Lou's ball lipped out after doing a lap around the hole, giving Auburn hope.
With Lou's lead cut to one, Weidenfeld piped her drive on 17 down the middle of the fairway, setting up a wedge shot that came to rest three feet from the cup to set up another birdie, which she converted to tie the match.
After the players halved the 18th, the match moved to extra holes starting on the par-3 15th.
Weidenfeld slightly pushed her tee shot but it managed to land on the fringe some 40 feet from the hole, while Lou's tee shot found the left greenside bunker.
Weidenfeld cozied her first putt to three feet and after Lu was unable to get up and down from the bunker, calmly rolled in her par save to hand the Tigers the victory.
"This team knows how to dig deep and showed true grit," Auburn head coach Melissa Luellen said. "I talked to them last week about our culture and how we never give up. Casey's play today is a great example of never giving up."
• • • • •
Championship Match Lineups
Zoe Slaughter (Texas A&M) vs. Megan Weidenfeld (Auburn)
Jennie Park (Texas A&M) vs. Elina Sinz (Auburn)
Hailee Cooper (Texas A&M) vs. Rachel Gourley (Auburn)
Blanca Fernández García-Poggio (Texas A&M) vs. Anna Foster (Auburn)
Adela Cernousek (Texas A&M) vs. Megan Schofill (Auburn)
Auburn and Texas A&M Athletic Communications contributed to this report.
View results for Women's East Lake Cup
ABOUT THE Women's East Lake Cup
Started in 2015 and hosted by the historic
Lake Golf Club Atlanta, this collegiate, two-day
play competition features the top-performing
from the previous year's NCAA Women's
View Complete Tournament Information