Conference championships season has officially begun! It’s time for Cinderellas and heartbreakers all at once. Let’s get to it in thumbs up and thumbs down.
Notre Dame men & women: The Fighting Irish took two Big East crowns home to South Bend from the Big East Championship. The men won by six shots over Louisville and the women defeated Louisville by 13 shots, securing themselves a trip to nationals as conference champions. Both teams had strong enough rankings to make a regional as an at-large team, but it’s always better to leave town as a champion. For the men, it was a complete team effort as Max Scodro won medalist honors and saw all four of his teammates finish in the top 35. On the women’s side, no player finished worse then T-12 and the team had three players in the top seven.
UTEP women: Not only did the UTEP women win the Conference USA Championship, but they took an NCAA invite spot from an at-large team. The Miners entered their conference championship ranked No. 97 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, and had to win this tournament in order for their season to continue. Entering the tournament, No. 18 Tulane looked to be the favorite, but UTEP played consistent all week long with scores of 302-302-300 to defeat Tulsa and Tulane by two strokes. The best finish the team had all year was a runner-up performance at the MSU/Payne Stewart Memorial which was just one of just three top five finishes the team had all season. Entering the conference championship the Lady Miners had three straight ninth-place finishes before a fourth at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic to close out the regular season. Regardless of what the team did earlier, they won when it counts.
Amy Anderson: I hope no one forgot about the 2009 Girls U.S. Junior Amateur champ that plays at North Dakota State. The sophomore won medalist honors at the Summit Conference Championship by three shots over Tiffany Robbins of Oral Roberts. Anderson is currently ranked No. 76 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and with the win should go up a few spots. North Dakota State will be left out of the postseason this year, but Anderson should be a lock to make it as an individual. On the year, she has a head-to-head record of 553-25-5, and will look to take down top competition at a regional. Anderson on the year has only faced two players ranked in the top 100 and is 1-1. Assuming Anderson makes it to a regional she will be facing plenty of top 100 talent, and have a chance to prove she is a hidden talent in North Dakota.
San Diego: The Toreros were clearly the favorite at the West Coast Conference Championship after entering the tournament ranked No. 24 in the country. However, the team shot a 7-over 871 for the three days to finish in third place, five shots behind second-place Pepperdine and 11 shots back of conference champs, San Francisco. The Dons not only snuck out with a win, but they assured themselves a spot in the postseason. San Francisco entered conference play ranked 94th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. San Diego will get a in invite to a regional, but will have to play the way they played during the regular season if they hope to make the trip to Stillwater later this summer.
UCLA women: It appeared that UCLA was going to enter the postseason as the top-ranked team in the country, but a third-place finish at the Pac 10 Conference Championship will drop the Bruins a spot. To make it worse, the Bruins will now see their cross-town rival USC take the top ranking and conference championship title. UCLA not only lost to USC by nine strokes, but also finished behind runner-up Arizona by four shots. A third-place finish is not bad at all especially in one of the toughest conferences in women’s college golf, but as the top team in the country, this is not the finish you want to see heading in the postseason.
Tulane women: The Green Wave have solidified themselves as a top 20 team in the country, and at one point were a top ten team this season. It was disappointing to see Tulane finish third in a not so power heavy Conference USA. Tulane saw 97th ranked UTEP win the conference championship trophy so many thought they would take back with them to New Orleans. Tulane had an up and down spring and will have to find the game they had early on in the year as a top 10 team if they want to make a run at nationals this year. We will see Tulane in the post-season, but which team will we see; the one from the fall or the one from the spring?