Arizona State's Monica Vaughn wins NCAA Women's Championship in stunning reversal

Monica Vaughn ASU Athletics

Arizona State's Monica Vaughn wins NCAA Women's Championship in stunning reversal

College

Arizona State's Monica Vaughn wins NCAA Women's Championship in stunning reversal

By

Leaderboard

• • •

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Does the drama ever stop?

After two years of incredible nail-biters in the team national championship match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, the theatrics shifted to the individual race.

Jennifer Kupcho, playing as an individual for Wake Forest, was cruising along Monday at Rich Harvest Farms as she was going to win the NCAA individual title – shortened from 72 to 54 holes as delays wiped out any play Saturday. The sophomore was bogey-free through her first 13 holes of the final round, 2 under for the day and overall. She was four shots ahead.

Even a bogey at 14 little mattered. Kupcho was going to win.

And then it all came crashing down.

After finding the fairway at the treacherous par-4 17th, likely all Kupcho had to do to win was get the ball over the fronting pond. Arizona State’s Monica Vaughn had just recorded back-to-back birdies on the other side of the course to move to 1 over, but Kupcho was still two ahead with a par 5 to play.

And then the inexplicable. Her pitching wedge approach shot from 127 yards hit the bank short of the green and rolled into the water.

“I got over it and hit the ball just how I wanted,” Kupcho said on Golf Channel. “It just hit a few feet short.”

Kupcho would proceed to race her 30-footer for bogey some six feet by. On the ensuing putt, her ball hit something early and missed, leaving her with a triple bogey and suddenly one back of Vaughn.

Kupcho proceeded to lose her drive right on 18 into a hazard, and was forced to pitch out and make par to finish 2 over.

Suddenly (and unbelievably) Vaughn was now in the driver’s seat and Duke’s Leona Maguire (who had closed in 2-under 70 hours ago to post at 2 over) was back in the mix. Vaughn came to her final hole, the par-4 ninth, one shot ahead and hit a beautiful approach to 20 feet.

Two putts from there and she was a national champion.

Vaughn cozied the first one 3 feet short and knocked in the remainder for the individual national title. Only, she didn’t know it right away…

“(After putting out), I figured I was around second or third,” Vaughn said. “I had no idea I was first.”

That was by design. Missy Farr-Kaye, Arizona State’s head coach, hadn’t looked at a leaderboard all day.

She had been told clearly by her team that she coaches better when she’s not worrying about the variables around. So she loosened up Monday.

“I owed that to them today,” Farr-Kaye said.

It wasn’t until the group finished out and Vaughn’s teammates came running toward her that she realized she had won. And then the tears flowed – after all, Vaughn is a senior and a cornerstone of the program.

The veteran had been on fire entering the NCAA Championship, finishing top-3 in four of her previous five events – including a win at the NCAA Lubbock Regional. But after 23 straight NCAA Championship appearances, Arizona State failed to make the field in 2015 or 2016.

While Vaughn finished solo fifth as an individual at the 2015 tournament, the back-to-back team misses left a mark.

So did the 2-footer for par that lipped out on the fifth hole (her 14th) on Monday. The devastating bogey dropped her to 3 over for the tournament, and four back. Vaughn, who started the day two back of Kupcho, thought she put herself out of the individual race.

But Farr-Kaye had happened to join Vaughn on that hole, and gave a different message.

“(Missy) was like, ‘Nope, we’re moving on. We’ve got birdies left.’ ”

Funny, because Farr-Kaye had entered the day with a message for her team to tone down the aggression.

How many pars in a row can you string together?

But with the renewed birdie call, Vaughn figured she needed two in her last four to have any chance. She drained mid-range putts for birdies on the next two holes.

“I putted really well all day, just nothing was really finding the hole,” Vaughn said. “And then it just happened those two holes that really mattered, they went in.”

Vaughn’s two closing pars gave her the 1-under 71 and 1-over total she needed to edge Kupcho and Maguire by one.

It’s a devastating, if maybe appropriate, end for Kupcho, who was trying to become the first women’s Demon Deacons golfer to win the individual national title. Kupcho, third in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, finishes a breakout sophomore campaign with three wins and top-3 showings in her last five starts. Yet, she did all of that only after suffering a freak concussion and whilst two teammates quit the squad or transferred.

It probably wasn’t a good omen that when Kupcho’s parents, Mike and Janet, made the long drive up to the tournament from Denver, they had to pull over a couple of times to stop as severe storms in Iowa made it too difficult to continue. (They eventually made it up safely, though.)

There were no such troubles for Vaughn. The senior ends her career as the sixth Sun Devil to win an individual national title. She won three times in college and had 25 top 10s. She finished top 15 in the rankings each of the last two seasons and will do so for a third straight time (she was Golfweek‘s No. 11 after this win).

Her career isn’t over, though. Vaughn helped her No. 1 Sun Devils reach match play, as Arizona State placed third in stroke play at 45 over. How does she feel about the team’s chances?

“This is our time,” Vaughn said.

At the very least, it’s certainly Monica Vaughn’s time to shine.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home