WILMINGTON, N.C. – When Jennifer Song missed her birdie putt on the 18th hole at the Country Club of Landfall on Friday afternoon, several things happened. USC missed out on forcing a playoff at the NCAA Championship by a shot; players from Purdue breathed a sigh of disbelief; and fans were left wanting more.
No one left the course – not other teams, parents, players or coaches. Everyone wanted to see more between Purdue and USC, but when Song tapped in for par, it was over.
The Trojans then burst into tears, Purdue players start to hug each other and fans start to applaud. But it’s what happened after Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, Jennifer Johnson and Jennifer Song left the 18th green that will leave a lasting impression.
While the NCAA committee was finalizing scores, bagpipers started to perform while walking up the 18th fairway. It was the closing chapter of what was a fantastic national championship.
As the bagpipers played, a new tune in women’s college golf had been established.
Purdue did something unheard of. The Boilermakers won the big one. After all the talk about the “Big Three,” Duke and past success of Georgia and San Jose State, no one really thought a team from the Big Ten could win the big one.
A doorway of opportunity has been opened. Kent State coach Mike Morrow understood the meaning of a potential Purdue win as the final groups were teeing off in the afternoon.
“There are only two teams from the North here at the championship – us and Purdue,” Morrow said. “If they can pull it off, it will put away the myth that you have to go to a school in warm weather year-round to compete.”
I asked Morrow who he was rooting for. He told me all the coaches in the final groups were his friends, but he wanted Purdue coach Devon Brouse to pull it out.
Morrow and Brouse may be friends, but a victory by the Boilermakers only helps the Kent State program, which is located in Kent, Ohio. Now, even a coach like Morrow can walk into potential recruits’ homes and say, “See, it can be done.”
Throughout the year, much of my attention went to the “Big Three,” thinking no other school could compete with the Pac-10 powerhouses. That train of thought can now be thrown out for good.
Purdue proved that great teams can come from places without palm trees and cacti. The college golf world, whether in the Northeast, Midwest, or even Pacific Northwest, now knows it can be done.
The music coming from the pipes Friday evening at Landfall was the tune to a new beginning. Thanks to Purdue, the women’s college golf world just received a big boost for a more balanced playing field.
With that said, my early prediction for next year is UCLA.