Thumbs up: Notre Dame | Thumbs down: Duke
Happy Monday, college golf fans! The NCAA women’s regionals have come and gone, and have brought excitement as well as letdowns. Let’s see who the biggest winners were this week in thumbs up/thumbs down.
Coastal Carolina: Before I get to the Chanticleers, I do want to give props to ’Bama. I have been hard on the Crimson Tide all year, but I am convinced with a victory at the East Regional that they are a national contender! Now, back to Coastal Carolina, which was No. 17 seed in the East. What an exciting three days for a program that is making its first trip to the NCAA Championship. With scores of 286-298-292, Coastal cruised its way to a fourth-place finish and never felt the pressure of being on the bubble or cut line. Jessica Alexander’s T-3 finish and Alicia Grier’s T-11 helped lead Coastal to an impressive finish, which saw the Chanticleers beat top ranked teams California, Florida, Vanderbilt and defending national champion Purdue. Coastal Carolina never finished better than 13th at a regional and made one heck of a statement with this performance. It will be interesting to see how coach Katie Quinney gets her team prepared for the championship as the Chanticleers continue to make headlines in a historic year for her program.
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Notre Dame: The Central Regional always seems to have the biggest surprises and upsets, but today I’m concentrating on the home team, Notre Dame. Pressure was on Notre Dame, since the Fightinig Irish were hosting a regional on their own Warren Golf Course, but the girls took care of business. Notre Dame had a big advantage with local knowledge and how to handle Indiana weather, and the team looked comfortable all weekend in doing so. With a fifth-place finish as the No. 9 seed, Notre Dame had key contributions from Nicole Zhang and Kristina Nhim to climb up the leaderboard and give the local fans something to cheer about. Seeing a No. 9 seed crack the top eight isn’t that big of an upset, but when you have the pressure of doing it in your own backyard, with everyone expecting you to, well, it can create unwanted pressure. The luck of the Irish wasn’t needed in South Bend this week, because this team was talented enough to get the job done.
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Texas A&M: The one team I was most worried for this postseason was the Aggies. Texas A&M had to travel West as the No. 9 seed with the idea weighing on their minds that the Aggies were hosting the national championship on their home golf course. It was a nail-biter until the last scorecard was signed and posted. Edging out Oregon by a single shot, Texas A&M locked up eighth place, setting itself up to have a solid showing at the national championship next week. The Aggies will not be national contender, but will have the opportunity to finish above several teams ranked ahead of them with their local knowledge. When the year started, Aggies fans were hoping that their team would get the chance to compete at home for a national title, and with an eight-place finish out West, it’s a mission accomplished.
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Michigan State/Auburn: Both schools entered the East Regional as conference champs. Michigan State shocked Purdue to win the Big Ten crown, and Auburn defeated Alabama as well in an extremely deep SEC. Unfortunately, those victories were the last positive headlines those schools would make this year. Auburn put itself in a big hole early with a first round score of 302, and followed that up with a 299 and another 302. Michigan State shot three straight days in the 290s, and that just wasn’t good enough at LPGA International. Both these schools entered regionals not just as top-20 ranked teams in the country, but with plenty of momentum after winning their respective conference titles. With an 11th-place finish by the Spartans and 13th-place finish by the Tigers, their season has come to an end earlier than many expected.
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Duke: It has been a tough year for the Dukies as far as wins go, and with a ninth-place finish at the Central Regional, Duke’s great run in the postseason has come to an end. Not only did Duke fail to make it to the NCAA Championship for the first time in 13 years, but the Blue Devils failed to win a tournament all year for the first time in 29 years! Duke came in as the No. 2 seed, but was forced to play catch up in the final round. Round 2 really hurt Duke, when it posted a score of 26-over 314 – the highest score of the top 14 seeds at the regional. In the final round, Duke posted the fourth-best round of the day; however, it was too little, too late. When the final numbers were posted, Duke saw that it was ninth, which put an end to its season and its great run at reaching nationals, as well.
Georgia: You may be thinking why Pepperdine isn’t here, as well, but with the loss of Danielle Kang (academically ineligible), the Waves just weren’t deep enough. Georgia, on the other hand, struggled from Day 1 with an opening-round score of 314, which pretty much shot itself out of contention early. The Dawgs had to scramble and claw their way back up the leaderboard; unfortunately, nearly everyone in the top eight played just as well or better than Georgia. On the year, Georgia only had three top-5 finishes and zero wins. Georgia finished in 14th as the No. 4 seed and finished 18 shots back of eighth-place Texas A&M. This was a disappointing finish for a team that by, its standards, had a disappointing year.