By Lance Ringler
East Lansing, Mich.
On the eve of the NCAA Division I Women’s Central Regional, Tulsa senior Stacy Prammanasudh said she would accept just playing well, but really wanted to win the national championship.
She played well all right – winning by four shots and helping her teammates to a second-consecutive Central Regional title May 9-11. Now, Prammanasudh and Tulsa get their shot to win nationals May 21-24 at Auburn, Wash.
Scoring at the Central Regional was held in check during the first two rounds because of cold temperatures, rain and wind gusts up to 40 mph over the Forest Akers West Golf Course. With the tough conditions, it was no coincidence the top-ranked player and team in the field were victorious.
“They now believe they can win any tournament they enter,” said Tulsa coach Melissa McNamara. “We never said we want to go and win regionals. We wanted to come here, get the job done and go to nationals. This is just part of the process.”
Prammanasudh, a three-time NGCA first-team All-American, has one tournament left in her college career.
“I have been working up to nationals all year and I think this gives me a little more confidence and momentum going into nationals,” said Prammanasudh, who shot 71-77-71 for a 3-over 219.
Tulsa, ranked third in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, shot a tournament-best 2-over 290 (914 total) to edge Ohio State and Texas by four shots and lead eight teams to the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
While Tulsa was claiming the top spot, there was a lot of commotion in the snack bar, where parents, coaches, players and fans were huddled around a computer checking the live scoring. Everyone was hoping their team would be one of the top eight finishers heading to Washington.
Before the final round, only six strokes separated the top eight teams. The difference between the eighth and 11th teams was 10 shots.
Most eyes were on Central Regional host Michigan State and Michigan, who had large followings. The focus was on the charge both were making and the dramatic fall of Kent State.
The Golden Flashes led after each of the first two rounds, but faltered on the back nine. Then there was Baylor, which held the eighth-place position, but was gradually fading. The Oklahoma squad was in the clubhouse – actually the snack bar – huddled around the computer interpreting the play on the course, just praying to remain in the top eight.
“This can drive you nuts,” said Oklahoma coach Carol Ludvigson, watching the live scoring. “This is unbelievable, but this is what is so exciting about women’s golf right now. At any given moment any team can put a low score on the board, and that shows the depth of women’s golf and where it has come.”
Michigan State finished and appeared to be out. But after Kent State went 8 over on the last three holes, the Spartans were in.
“We had back nine scores of 42, 43 and 41,” said Kent State coach Mike Morrow. “We knew it was going to be close, and I felt someone would shoot out of the pack and there were going to be some bad rounds played – and unfortunately, we caught the bad round.”
The Golden Flashes finished with a final-round 312–933 to miss by one shot.
“You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but it hits you in between the eyes that every stroke matters,” said Morrow.
Purdue and Oklahoma State advanced by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, and were followed by Michigan, Oklahoma and Michigan State.
Kent State’s Martina Gillen finished second (71-77-75–223) and Baylor’s Melanie Hagewood finished fourth (70-78-77–225) to advance to nationals as individuals.
Michigan will be making its first appearance at the finals. Bess Bowers, one of three seniors in the Michigan lineup, led the team with an individual tie for 11th.
“At this point it is beyond my comprehension,” said Bowers, who will start a job with ESPN in June. “We met last night without coach, and we said it is not going to be the end of our season. I am the only one who is not going on to play professional golf, and I said I don’t want this to be my last competitive round of golf.”
Texas Christian University, which finished 11th, started the day in ninth and was unable to climb the leaderboard.
“These teams are not going to come back to you,” said TCU coach Angie Ravaioli-Larkin. “You have to go out and get it, and that’s what Michigan State and Michigan did. That’s what we needed to do.”