East: TCU waits, and waits, then celebrates
Team champion: South Carolina (even-par 864)
Individual champion: Katie Burnett, South Carolina (6-under 210)
The top 8: 2. Tennessee (866), 3. Auburn (868), 3. Duke (868), 5. Vanderbilt (871), 6. Tulane (873), 7. Pepperdine (877), 8. TCU (880)
Close, but no cigar: 9. Texas Tech (887), 9. Wake Forest (887), 11. Florida (890)
Individuals: Rosalyn Kim, Texas Tech (212); Nina Muehl, East Tennessee State (213).
The great wait: Texas Christian found itself in a tough position Saturday afternoon as its national championship fate hung on Wake Forest’s final-round performance.
Who’s in? Who’s out? Lance Ringler and Asher Wildman break down all of the action from final rounds of the NCAA Women’s Regionals.
TCU players spent much of the afternoon sprawled on one of the many clubhouse verandas at Ironwood Country Club in Greenville, N.C., waiting to see if the Demon Deacons would stage a comeback that could knock them out of the eighth and final spot.
The Horned Frogs missed their 5:50 p.m. flight out of Greenville as they hovered four to five shots in front of Wake Forest. But they didn’t miss out on the natonal championship, eventually landing safely in the top 8 after a nerve-wracking afternoon.
“We scored with all the top teams,” head coach Angie Larkin said of TCU’s final round. “... I thought we would have passed a couple more teams, but it just shows how good women’s golf is.”
Texas Tech played a similar waiting game, as the team sat mostly in silence in a shady spot just off the 18th green. The Red Raiders ended up seven shots out of the top 8, but senior Rosalyn Kim will advance as an individual after finishing third at 4-under 212 that included a final-round 73.
“I made a couple huge clutch putts, I slipped up once,” Kim said. “... I kept telling myself to stay right there, don’t get ahead of yourself.”
East Tennessee State junior Nina Muehl finished one shot back of Kim, and also earned a national championship bid as an individual.
Truly one for the record books: South Carolina fans had their cell phones glued to their hands as the last of their players walked off the course, checking to see if sophomore Katie Burnett’s eleventh-hour birdie really would vault the Gamecocks into the top spot. Turns out, they didn’t even need it. South Carolina beat Tennessee by two shots to earn its first victory since the 2005 ACC/SEC Challenge. It’s also the first win for head coach Kalen Anderson, now in her second full season with the Gamecocks.
“It was close coming in the whole time,” Anderson said as her team celebrated around her. “We’re just happy to have won the thing.”
Blown over: Florida moved steadily down the leaderboard all week as the winds picked up. The Gators started the tournament in fifth after a 4-under 284 in the first round, but slipped to the eighth spot heading into the final round after a second-round 297. Florida had difficulty adjusting to breezy conditions and slick greens, and dropped another 12 shots in Round 3 for a 21-over 309, leaving the Gators in 11th.
It’s the second year in a row that Florida has been left out of the national championship, though it wasn’t something weighing on players’ minds heading into the final round. Only sophomores Evan Jensen and Andrea Watts were part of last year’s team. Everyone else – including head coach Jan Dowling – is new to Florida this year.
“Our goal isn’t to advance to nationals, our goals are much higher than that,” Dowling said.
Time to unwind: With winds gusts of up to 20 mph for Saturday’s final round, Ironwood’s more open front nine proved to be much more difficult than the back, which is mostly sheltered by trees. How difficult was it? The top 3 teams after the second round – Pepperdine, Duke and Tennessee – recorded a combined 14 double bogeys or higher.
The bright spot on the front nine came from Tennessee freshman Erica Popson, who eagled the par-5 seventh after holing out from 55 yards with a 58-degree wedge. The eagle canceled out two bogeys to start the day, leaving her with even-par 36. She finished with a 74 to tie for fourth.
Quote of the day: “At least it was a good thing it hit me.” – Tennessee spectator who caught a ball in the backside from Duke’s Courtney Ellenbogen while standing in the trees at No. 8. The deflection kept the ball in play.