STILLWATER, Okla. – Shannon Aubert began the final round with a hooked drive into the jungle at Karsten Creek Golf Club. It’s wild here in Cowboy country, where the snakes slither up trees and sunbathe in the creeks. The feisty Aubert marched into the woods and escaped with bogey.
“She would go into the depths of hell to hit a shot,” said her mother, Monica, laughing.
Stanford reached match play at the NCAA Championship for a fourth consecutive time. And while head coach Anne Walker believes that favorites don’t exist in this anything-can-happen portion of the championship, it’s hard to ignore Stanford’s 1-2-3 streak of finishes at this event.
Aubert, a senior, is the only player at Karsten who is left from Stanford’s 2015 NCAA Championship team. She hasn’t won an individual title in college, but she has been a part of three regionals victories and one NCAA crown. Last summer she was medalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and advanced to the Sweet 16.
Coaches describe Aubert as the ultimate team player. Even when she struggled this season, assistant coach Lauren Dobashi said she always found a way to bring her teammates up.
“That doesn’t really do it for her,” said Walker of individual titles. “This does it for her.”
As Stanford began to unravel on Nos. 4-6 (their back nine) – with freshman Emily Wang carding a nine, Albane Valenzuela posting double-bogey/bogey and Mika Lui tumbling down with four bogeys and a double on her back nine – Aubert poured in an unlikely birdie on the sixth and cruised in with a 71. It was a gritty round for a player who, Dobashi said, has struggled with confidence this season.
“I think she thrives on it,” said Dobashi of Aubert on the national championship stage. “This is the one place too where team really comes into play.”
And wait until match play, when the petite Aubert morphs into a prize fighter.
Stanford held on to claim the fifth seed out of eight teams. The Cardinal will face last year’s runner-up Northwestern in the quarterfinals. In the final round of stroke play, sophomore Andrea Lee carded a sensational 7-under 65 to a take a share of second in the individual race. She should be an even stronger force now that she has a year of NCAA match-play experience under her belt.
When Aubert tees it up in Tuesday’s quarterfinal match against Brooke Riley, she’ll become the first player in women’s NCAA history to compete in four consecutive years of championship match play.
“Shannon is always going to do best if she’s playing for her team versus herself,” said Walker.
Which might explain why Aubert has chosen a different road than many of her Cardinal peers post-college. After a life of golf, Aubert wants to see what else the world has to offer. She plans to put her Stanford degree to use after a summer competing on the French National team, though she’s not yet sure what that means exactly.
“I feel like a lot of people tend to feel this obligation to go pro because you’ve been doing it for so long. Why wouldn’t you?” she said. “There is that desire because I’m very competitive and golf is my passion. But maybe taking a break and stepping away and seeing what else lies out there in life is valuable. … Worst-case scenario, golf is still there. If I absolutely hate my life without it, I’m happy to come back.”
Born in Annecy, France, to a former professional figure skater and skier, Aubert has lived in eight countries and speaks four languages. Walker said she’s chameleon-like in her ability to adjust to whatever environment she’s in. She’s even struck up a friendship with Stanford alum Tiger Woods, whose advice was to “Do whatever makes you happy and give 200 percent so you don’t have any regrets.”
Aubert won’t have any regrets when she finally leaves Stillwater because she’ll fight til there’s nothing left.
And then move on to conquer whatever comes next.