Mary Lou Mulflur didn’t have to say a word. As the Washington coach watched her players come down the stretch at the NCAA Division I Women’s East Regional May 7, the sunflower seeds were flying at a rapid pace. When Mulflur’s top two players finished the last three holes in 6 over par, the anxious Huskies coach could hardly keep watching.
“I couldn’t even say anything to them when we finished,” said Mulflur, who thought Washington’s season had prematurely ended. “It was one of those situations where you literally don’t know what to say. You can’t win nationals if you’re not there.”
A few hours later, however, Mulflur’s mood took a complete turn as she climbed off the day’s emotional roller coaster. The eighth-ranked Huskies claimed the eighth and final qualifying spot in Gainesville, Fla., edging South Carolina by three shots.
Sophomore Courtney McCracken finished birdie-par to close with a 1-over 71, and classmate Amber Prange shot 72 to finish Washington’s final push.
“It was crazy,” said McCracken. “We thought we were done.”
Ohio State cruised to the team title with a 16-over 856 total at the par-70 University of Florida Golf Course. The Buckeyes defeated top-ranked Duke by six strokes to end the Blue Devils’ streak of five consecutive regional titles. Duke sophomore Anna Grzebien shot a final-round 67 for medalist honors.
Furman, Pepperdine, Virginia, Tulane and Florida rounded out the teams qualifying for the NCAA Championship May 17-20 in Sunriver, Ore. The region’s top eight seeds advanced, although not without some last-minute drama from Washington.
After rain canceled play on Day 1, the Huskies, seeded third, got off to a sluggish start Friday and finished the 36-hole marathon in 12th place, five shots outside the magic number.
“I was as shocked as anybody that we played as poorly as we did (Friday) and put ourselves in the position that we were,” Mulflur said. “Honestly, I chewed on them a little bit and basically said, ‘You guys are so much better than this.’ ”
Saturday morning it was difficult to tell whether the Huskies, dressed in all black, already were mourning their plight, or simply gearing up for a final-round charge Gary Player-style. Not even a playful purple hair ribbon was in sight.
After a closing with a 16-over 296, Washington hovered around 10th place at 60-over 900. Mulflur and her team went back to their hotel to keep an eye on live scoring. They showered and put on scrub clothes, only to dash back to the course for a possible playoff when Miami took a share of eighth place midway through the back side.
When the Hurricanes weakened down the stretch, however, the relieved Huskies finally quit pressing the refresh buttons on their computers and turned their attention to Sunriver, where they finished second at the Fall Preview last September.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Mulflur. “I think we need to get our confidence back.”
And maybe a new supply of sunflower seeds.