No longer can Purdue slip under the radar. The Boilermakers journeyed more than 2,000 miles to the NCAA West Regional at Washington National Golf Club and validated their existence as a top team in college golf.
Purdue finished six shots clear of UCLA, the region’s top-seeded team, to capture its first regional title. Eight teams qualified for the NCAA Championship set to begin in Columbus, Ohio, May 23. Joining Purdue and UCLA were Washington, Stanford, Georgia, UNLV, Arizona and Arkansas.
“They are a good team and I had no doubt that they were a good team,” said UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth, who watched her Bruins play all three rounds with Purdue.
Under the guidance of coach Devon Brouse, Purdue has qualified for the NCAA Championship seven consecutive years. Brouse came to Purdue eight years ago to serve as the men’s and women’s golf coach. Prior to that he spent 21 seasons at North Carolina, where he guided the men’s program to 19 NCAA Championship appearances.
“Having the best score out here against a lot of good teams is something that should give our ladies a lot of confidence,” Brouse said. “You take confidence and gratification out of winning this week, but the bottom line is we are going to have to play better if we want to be in the hunt in Columbus . . . and I think we have room for improvement. I think our ladies are smart enough to realize that this just gets us there, and how we perform there is how we are going to be judged for the season.”
Purdue placed three players in the top 10, led by freshmen Christel Boeljon, who finished third at
1-over 217, and Maria Hernandez, who tied for fifth at 4-over 220.
However, the individual spotlight belonged to Washington senior Paige Mackenzie. Mackenzie, who played in her very first college event – the Fall Preview – at Washington National Golf Club in 2001, recorded her third career victory after rounds of 68-69-71 for an 8-under 208, eight shots better than BYU’s Rachel Newren.
Mackenzie, an All-American from Yakima, Wash., won the Pac-10 Conference Championship April 26. She was the first Washington golfer to win the Pac-10 title, and only the second to win a regional title. (Dodie Mazzuca won the West title in 1997.) Mackenzie credits a little more free time to her improved play.
“I graduated from college,” Mackenzie said with laugh.
Seven of the top eight seeds advanced, with only No. 8 New Mexico, which finished 13th, missing out. Taking the Lobos’ place was host Washington, seeded ninth. The third-place Huskies made the most of playing in a friendly atmosphere. An estimated 200 fans, many sporting purple colors, followed the Huskies on the final day.
“We felt like we needed to take advantage of our home-course advantage,” Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said. “We knew that no one else had seen the golf course because we don’t host an event here.”
Newren and Georgia State’s Joanna Klatten (who tied for fifth at 220) advanced to compete at Columbus as individuals.