What we learned from NCAA women's golf regionals

Photo: Kent State Women's Golf

What we learned from NCAA women's golf regionals

College

What we learned from NCAA women's golf regionals

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Earlier this week 72 teams and 24 individuals across four regional sites competed for spots in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., May 17-22.

After three rounds of play, 24 teams and 12 individuals have advanced to the finals. If you’re not familiar with the format, the top six teams from each region and top three individuals not on advancing teams qualified for NCAAs.

Here’s more of what we learned from the four regional sites:

Golfweek/Sagarin rankings don’t lie

It was no surprise that the power five conferences led the way, with the Pac-12 reigning supreme over the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten. Of the 24 teams heading to the NCAAs, 21 hail from a power five conference. Kent State, San Jose State and UCF are the outliers.

Nine of the 11 schools in the Pac-12 made it to regionals, with six teams advancing to the finals: Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington.

Adding in individual competitors Kathleen Scavo (Oregon) and Ellie Slama (Oregon State), eight of the nine schools will be represented at NCAAs.

RANKING: Top 50 events in women’s college golf

While the Trojans were the only Pac-12 team to win a regional, their seventh win of the season and 13th regional title in program history, three of the four regional individual medalists hailed from the conference: UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit (East Lansing), USC’s Jennifer Chang (Cle Elum) and Arizona State’s co-medalist Olivia Mehaffey, (Norman). Mehaffey shared the honors with Oklahoma’s Kaitlin Milligan.

Hosting matters … just not this year

Common sense says hosting a regional tournament should give you an advantage over the field of teams. That wasn’t the case this year.

All four host teams were seeded within the top six of their respective regions, but only two of the four – Auburn and Washington – advanced out of regional play. Neither the Tigers nor the Huskies won their regions. Auburn finished fifth, 14 shots behind first-place Vanderbilt. Washington finished runner-up in Cle Elum, but was still 15 shots behind USC.

The No. 5 seed in East Lansing, Michigan State finished seventh at Forest Akers, three shots clear of No. 14 seed Indiana (we’ll talk about the Hoosiers soon). The Spartans last hosted a regional in 2002, where they finished eighth.

REGION SCORES: Auburn | Cle Elum | Norman | East Lansing

The Sooners were able to rebound a bit in the final round, shooting 1-under on Wednesday at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. An opening round 8-over and second round 5-over doomed Oklahoma, who finished eighth in Norman, five shots behind sixth-place Ole Miss.

Some more facts …

  • Host teams are 10-for-15 in advancing out of regional play.
  • Host teams within the top six seeds are 6-for-10 in advancing out of regional play.
  • Host teams outside the top six seeds are 4-for-7 in advancing out of regional play.

Milligan, a Sooner sophomore, was the only member of a host team to claim medalist honors. Washington’s Rino Sasaki finished runner-up in Cle Elum, Michigan State’s Haylin Harris finished third in East Lansing and Auburn’s Elena Hualde finished T-8 in Opelika.

Seeds were relatively accurate

There wasn’t much backlash on seeding when the regional fields were announced two weeks ago. The top four seeds from each regional advanced, with No. 3 seed South Carolina (Cle Elum) as the only exception.

Curious how the top six seeded teams per region have fared when it comes to advancing to the NCAAs over the last five years?

  • 2015 – 19 of the top 24 teams advanced.
  • 2016 – 19 of the top 24 teams advanced.
  • 2017 – 14 of the top 24 teams advanced.
  • 2018 – 18 of the top 24 teams advanced.
  • 2019 – 17 of the top 24 teams advanced.

On the flip side, No. 14 seed Indiana, the last team to get into NCAA regional play, advanced after finishing sixth in East Lansing, making it to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2007. The Hoosiers moving on as the No. 14 seed ties the record for the highest seed to advance since 2015’s move to the current four site, six advance format.

Michigan State (2017) and Campbell (2015) are the only other 14 seeds to previously advance.

No. 13 seed UCF finished sixth in the Cle Elum regional to advance to the NCAA Championship for the second time in program history, with the first coming 23 years ago in 1996. No. 11 seed Tennessee is also on its way to Fayetteville after advancing from an Auburn region that featured 13 teams ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings top 50, including five of the top 20. Tennessee entered the regional ranked No. 35.

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