NCAA Women's Regionals: Top 10 storylines worth following
Golfweek photo
Golfweek photo

There is no shortage of storylines heading into the NCAA Women's Regionals which get underway on Monday at six sites around the country.

Unlike regular season tournaments, the drama and excitement isn't contained to the top of the leaderboard, but rather around the cutline which will determine which five teams advance to the National Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club later this month.

Playing without two of its top players, defending national champion Stanford has gone from a heavy favorite to being in survival mode in just a few short months. Wake Forest, LSU and Texas A&M, among others, are more than capable of wrestling the title away from the Cardinal.

For those who like a good Cinderella story come tournament time, keep an eye on Illinois, SMU, Penn and Lipscomb as those teams try to extend their seasons a few more weeks.

UCLA would like nothing more to send head coach Carrie Forsyth out on a high note as the longtime Bruin coach recently announced her retirement after 24 years in Westwood.

Can Rose Zhang successfully defend the individual title that she won last year as a freshman? Who's ready to step up and challenge the top-ranked women's amateur in the world? If anyone needed extra motivation, the winner of the NCAA individual title receives an exemption into the U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach in July.

Here's a look at some of the storylines we'll be following this week at the six regional sites around the country.

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Equity achieved
For the first time in NCAA women’s golf history, 30 teams will advance to the National Championship at Grayhawk. Announced in January, the committee approved a motion to increase the advancing teams from 27 to 30, and reduce the number of advancing individuals from 12 to six. The historical move now equates the sizes of both the men’s and women’s advancing teams to the National Championship.

Curtain call
Shortly following the Pac-12 Championships, UCLA head coach Carrie Forsyth announced her retirement after 24 years at the helm of the Bruins. Forsyth transformed the face of UCLA women’s golf, where she led the Bruins to two NCAA titles, nine regional titles and 74 total tournament victories. The Bruins finished in the top three at the NCAA Championships on eight occasions, and 17 of her golfers have placed top 10 as individuals at nationals. The players under Forsyth’s tutelage included Lilia Vu, Bronte Law, Alison Lee, Patty Tavatanakit, Ryann O’Toole and Mariajo Uribe.

Forsyth will remain involved with the program and will take on a role as a special assistant to UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond.

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Related: The Road to Grayhawk: Previewing the NCAA Women's Regionals

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Is it Wake Forest’s time?
The Demon Deacons have remained steadily in the mix for NCAAs for the past two years, but have seen enormous strides in 2022-23. The return of Emilia Migliaccio, plus a five-win season has Kim Lewellen’s crew right on the heels of defending champion Stanford. Losing out on the ACC title was a surprise, but it’d be hard to imagine Wake Forest not making a deep postseason run. Two-time conference player of the year Rachel Kuehn, Carolina Chacarra’s immense talent combined with Migliaccio’s experience in NCAA match play will make this cast of characters tough to beat.

Can Stanford dig deep?
With a stacked lineup in the fall, Stanford won all four of its stroke play tournaments and a second straight national championship seemed like a mere formality. But injuries to stalwarts Rachel Heck and Brooke Seay have put a hold on a Cardinal coronation. Rose Zhang has carried the Cardinal on her shoulders two a pair of wins this spring, but a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships could be an indicator the defending champs are vulnerable. It's a matter of simple math and if the Cardinal managed to get into match play, they will be a tough out.

Penn’s magical ascent
A lot of rain, a lot of heart and a ton of grit birthed a turnaround run for the Penn women’s golf team at the Ivy League Championships. A last-place finish was an unfortunate end to their 2022 season, but freshman Julie Shin along with senior Selina Li were the answer in 2023. In the final round, both players tied for low round of the day at 1-over to vault them to a 4-shot team victory and earn an automatic bid to NCAA Regionals, Penn’s first since 2010.

If it comes down to PKs, take Lipscomb
An assistant soccer coach leading a Division I women’s golf team to a conference championship and a regional appearance might seem farfetched, but it wasn't to Shannon O’Brien. O’Brien spent a year as an assistant before taking over as the interim head coach in 2023 – and has quickly stolen the show. She’s taken Lipscomb women’s golf to a five-win season, including a program-first conference title.

The rise of SMU
Another surprise rise belongs to SMU, which didn’t even see a regionals appearance last year. Now atop the American-Athletic Conference, the Mustangs’ charge has been led by two younger coaches who have quickly proven themselves. Both Lauren Mason and Addie Baggarly were successful student-athletes within the past five years, and their new-age approach to coaching has led the program to five victories in their season, including a conference title.

Illinois wins Big Ten to snag a regional berth While the Illinois men's team has made a habit out of winning Big Ten championships, the women's team hasn't enjoyed nearly the same success. The Illini, definitely a bubble team heading into the Big Ten Championships at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, took their postseason fate into their own hands by winning their first-ever conference championship and the automatic berth into regionals. Behind Crystal Wang, who shot a final round 62 to claim Big Tem medalist honors, the Illini will be making its third consecutive trip to regionals and will look to advance to the nationals for the second time in school history.

Texas A&M's incredible turnaround under Gerrod Chadwell
If you didn’t think it could get any better for Texas A&M than an NCAA semifinals run, you’re completely wrong. Ranked No. 90 just two short years ago before Chadwell took over, the Aggies have soared, winning four times this past season, including the SEC Championship. The word is out on the Aggies. The No. 1 seed at the San Antonio Regional has bona fide national championship hopes.

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Related: The rapid rise of Texas A&M under Gerrod Chadwell

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A trip to the U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach awaits the individual champion The USGA raised the stakes for winning the NCAA women's individual championship. In February, the USGA announced the winners of the men's and women's NCAA Division I individual championships will earn exemptions into the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open beginning this year, should the player remain an amateur. The 2023 U.S. Open will be held at Los Angeles Country Club, June 15-18 while Pebble Beach Golf Links will host the women’s championship for the first time July 6-9.

AmateurGolf.com will have daily coverage of all six NCAA Regionals beginning on Monday.

ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Women's Championship

30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying team make up the field for the championship of NCAA Division I women's golf.

After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance to match play to determine the team champion.

View Complete Tournament Information

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