California senior Sarah Huarte continued a long family history of athletic excellence when she walked away from Grand National’s Lake Course May 22 with the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. Huarte (pronounced Hugh-ert) shot 73-69-67-69 for a 10-under-par 278 total, one shot ahead of Oklahoma State sophomore Karin Sjodin.
Sarah’s father, Jim, played football at Saint Mary’s (Calif.) College and her mother, Judy, runs marathons. Her younger sister, Laura, is a pole vaulter at Notre Dame. And Sarah’s uncle, John Huarte, won the Heisman Trophy in 1964 when, as a senior quarterback, he helped lead Ara Parseghian’s Fighting Irish to a 9-1 record and a No. 3 national ranking.
“This might be up there with my uncle’s Heisman,” Sarah said.
No one could touch Huarte’s consistency and birdie power in the Alabama heat as she progressively found more confidence in her swing. Huarte, 22, made 25 birdies in four rounds, including nine in a third-round 67 that was the championship’s best score. She was the only player to shoot three sub-70 rounds. Big stuff from a woman who didn’t win a college event all year and had won once previously in her career.
“This was my fourth time here and I have never played well before,” said Huarte, who tied for 97th last year at the NCAA Championship. “But I played consistent and hung in there.
“This is by far the biggest tournament that I’ve ever won.”
Huarte entered the final round a shot behind leaders Sjodin and UCLA sophomore Susie Mathews. After 12 holes Huarte had vaulted into a five-shot lead when a weather delay and darkness suspended the round until the next morning.
Playing the final hole Saturday morning with Sjodin and Mathews five holes behind, Huarte two-putted for bogey and took a nervous two-shot advantage into the clubhouse. As she walked off the 72nd green, Huarte’s California teammates doused her with a bucket of water to start a premature celebration.
Sjodin made birdie on the par-3 17th and stood on the 18th tee needing birdie to force a playoff. But a 15-foot birdie attempt barely missed and she settled for runner-up. Mathews shot 72 and was third at 280.
“Finishing second is not that fun,” Sjodin said.
It’s been a whirlwind year for Huarte, who burst onto the national scene in January when she won the South Atlantic Ladies Amateur, a victory that clinched her a Curtis Cup selection. After the NCAA Championship, Huarte traveled to Sea Island, Ga., with her fellow Curtis Cup teammates for a week of practice for the June 12-13 matches in England.