By Jenny Peter
On Saturday, the Stanford women’s golf team procured a solid 284 (10-over) at the NCAA West Regional hosted at the Stanford Golf Course, finishing sixth out of 24 teams and clinching a berth to the NCAA Championships in Wilmington, N.C. from May 18-21. The top eight teams from the tournament advanced, as well as the top eight teams from the Central Regional and the East Regional.
Arizona won the tournament with a three-round score of 876, followed by UCLA’s 885. Texas and Alabama tied for third at 890, with Virginia in fifth with an 894. Stanford finished just one stroke back at 895, with San Jose State at 900 and Texas A&M at 903 rounding out the eight advancing teams.
Participants played 54 holes Thursday to Saturday at a par 71. After shooting a 297 in the first round on Thursday, Stanford found itself in ninth place, six shots behind leaders Virginia and Arizona. On Friday, the Cardinal maintained its play during the second round to place in ninth once again with a 304. Leader Arizona was 16 strokes ahead. The Cardinal golfers knew they had to step up their game in order to finish in the top eight.
“After Friday, we decided that what we needed to do was go out and have fun, keep our attitudes positive and play solid golf,” said junior Rebecca Durham. “We knew mistakes were going to happen out there and the teams that finished well were going to be the ones that minimized the best. Our game plan on Saturday was to celebrate the good shots and play solid golf and we did that.”
The girls managed the added pressure well and finished strong, producing their best team score on the last crucial day of the tournament with a 284. At one point, the team was in 13th place, and in the span of four holes moved up to fifth after seven birdies.
On the back nine, there was loud cheering from the fans as the Cardinal was picking up strokes while everyone else was dropping them. Senior Angela King ended her last Stanford-hosted tournament with three birdies in a row and a long par putt on the 18th green in front of a large crowd. Sophomore Sydney Burlison had a highlight as well when she made a 40-foot putt on the par-three for birdie.
“We laid it all out there,” Durham, who also fared well with two birdies on the last four holes, said matter-of-factly.
Stanford made its last appearance at the NCAA Championships in 2007 when the women finished fifth in the nation at Daytona Beach, Fla. The Cardinal fell just short of an NCAA berth in 2008 when it finished tied for eighth place at the regional and lost in a three-team playoff with UC-Davis and Ohio State. The women finished 14th at last year’s regional, making their finish this year even more impressive.
“I was so proud of the way my teammates fought,” Burlison said. “From day one we were outside the top eight, but we just kept trying to claw our way back in. We didn’t panic – we just kept moving. We were outside the top eight, and the final day we just responded. I loved how calm my team was this entire week. We fed off each other and I think that made a huge difference.”
“The team has worked really hard all year,” Durham said. “We hung in there this week and reached one of our goals – getting to nationals. We’ve got a great group of girls and the support and encouragement given by everyone really made a difference this week. We love playing golf and we loved being able to share this moment with each other. Everyone contributed in one way or another – it was very special to be a part of it.”
The NCAA Tournament will take place May 18-21 in Wilmington.