The 2018 NCAA women’s regionals begin Monday with 72 teams fighting for 24 spots in the NCAA Championship. There are four regional sites, and the top six finishers from each earns a spot at nationals May 18-23 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
We know the top teams and a lot of the others expected to advance, but which additional squads in these fields hold the most intrigue?
Golfweek picks an interesting team not among the top few seeds in each regional and explains why.
Austin (Texas) Regional
If you’re looking for a lower seed to crash the nationals party, look no further than the Bears. Baylor is the No. 9 seed in this regional, but history and recent form dictate this crew could play far above that seeding.
Baylor has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the match-play era at women’s NCAAs. Despite a No. 12 ranking in 2015 – the initial year of match play – Baylor made it all the way to the final and came one point away from a national title. Last season the 17th-ranked Bears once again outdid their rating, making match play at NCAAs and losing in the quarters.
Baylor is No. 30 currently, but outdoing that ranking in a similar stead at regionals would give it a good chance to advance. The Bears also are playing their best golf heading in, finishing fifth at a loaded Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic then tying for second at the Big 12 Championship. Those are the team’s two highest finishes this season.
Madison (Wis.) Regional
The Fighting Illini have been headlined by their juggernaut men’s program for several years. But the women’s side has been one of the surprise teams in 2017-18.
Yes, the Illini made regionals for the first time in five seasons last year, but the team then lost maybe its best player (Siyun Liu, transfer to Wake Forest), and key signee Reena Sulkar didn’t join the squad (tending to a family matter). Yet that team with Liu finished ranked 41st, while this year’s squad without Liu and minus an expected reinforcement has jumped to No. 22.
The Illini are looking for their first appearance in the NCAA Championship, and with incredible resiliency in 2017-18 they are in position to do just that. If the No. 5 seed can play to its billing, this group will advance.
(Also, Campbell is the No. 10 seed in this region. The Camels made the 2014 NCAA Championship as a No. 17 seed at regionals and then got through as a No. 14 seed the very next year.)
San Francisco Regional
This one is pretty simple: The Cowgirls are hosting the NCAA Championship and they badly want to compete at nationals at home. Oklahoma State is the No. 5 seed in this region and is expected to advance regardless of that motivation. But it’s far from a guarantee.
The Cowgirls took a huge hit when star Maddie McCrary turned pro mid-season after earning conditional LPGA status. Oklahoma State was a top-10 team at that point and has done well to drop only to No. 16 after the loss of such a player. In fact, it has heated up of late with a win at the Dale McNamara Invitational and then a T-2 at Big 12s.
Whatever the case, there are no excuses. They advance to nationals at home or have to deal with disappointment. It’ll be fascinating to follow their quest.
Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional
It’s always interesting to see how a regional host fares, especially when its seeding is outside the top six. That’s the case with Florida State, which will host as the No. 7 seed.
Can the Seminoles capitalize on home-course advantage? Florida State is certainly good enough to do so and has to be riding confidence from a runner-up at the ACC Championship. It will be interesting how it plays out.
Also of note is that 2016 national champion Washington is in this regional as a No. 4 seed. Ninth-seeded Georgia returns to regionals a year after failing to advance despite hosting as a No. 2 seed in Athens. The Bulldogs look for redemption and are playing better of late, as star Jillian Hollis is back after injuries and a Q-School run and has posted two wins and top-5s in her five spring starts. Gwk