Two-Time WSGA Player of the Year Sierra Kersten's Stanford in Women's NCAA Final Match Against UW at Eugene CC

In a battle of hometown hero versus hometown favorites, Sierra Kersten of Spokane, Wash. and her Stanford teammates will face the University of Washington today in the final match for the national title at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, being held at Eugene Country Club.

Sierra Kersten
Sierra Kersten

Kersten, a freshman at Stanford, was the WSGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014, and was also the WJGA Player of the Year those same two years.

Stanford is looking to repeat as national champions, while Washington is looking for the first national title in its history.

The Huskies not only advanced to make their first NCAA Championship final appearance in program history, but they did it in an exciting and epic fashion, providing those at the Eugene Country Club and watching on Golf Channel an unbelievable final six holes.

The Huskies freshmen stepped up big down the stretch as UW went on to defeat No. 1 UCLA 3 and 1. The newcomers won each of the three points and did so in a dramatic way.

Julianne Alvarez struck first as she defeated Bethany Wu 1-up. In a back and forth math, Wu took an early lead after winning the first hole but Alvarez responded by winning holes three and five to go one up. Wu then made a run of her own taking the final three on the front nine to make the turn at 1-under. Alvarez claimed the 10th and after the two spent the next five holes all square, the Husky knocked in a beautiful birdie on hole 16 to take the lead she would not relinquish and give UW its first point of the day.

Washington’s lead quickly jumped to 2-0 on the 17th as Wenyung Keh defeated Hadas Libman 2 and 1. Keh led pretty much the whole way despite Libman taking the first hole. Keh claimed two, four, six and eight to enter the back nine 2-up. Despite her lead falling to 1-up twice on the back nine, Keh recorded a birdie on 17 to take the match.

While Keh was winning her match, the day’s most exciting pairing was on the 18th as freshman Sarah Rhee had just won her last three holes to cut UCLA’s Louise Ridderstrom’s previous 3-up lead to 1-up entering the final hole. Rhee would have to win the hole to force a playoff and win the hole she did to take her fourth-straight from Ridderstrom.

The pair immediately started the playoff on the 10th, a hole that Rhee had won earlier in the round to actually take a 1-up lead over the Bruin. Rhee’s tee shot went down the fairway slightly to the right and she followed that shot up with a strike that landed her in the top bunker, 20 yards from the hole. The freshman from Seattle then hit the biggest shot of the day, as she holed out after the ball hit the pin and dropped in the cup, clinching the match for the Huskies.

“I was just trying to get it close and put pressure on her,” Rhee said. “Sometimes they go in. That was perfect timing right there. Walking down the 19 th fairway, I feel like I worked really hard the last three holes, and I didn’t want to go back after working that hard. I just stepped over the shot, and my mind just went blank, you know, and it ended up going in.”

Senior Ying Luo was on the 18th with a chance to also clinch the win after hitting a perfectly curved putt on the 17th to return her match with Lila Vu to all square but the match was halted once Rhee knocked in the epic bunker shot. Luo was up the entire front nine but Vu took the lead with wins on 12, 13 and 15 before Luo forced the 18th to be the deciding hole.

UCLA got its lone point from the top of the lineup as junior Bronte Law, the 2016 PING WGCA Player of the Year, defeated UW’s Charlotte Thomas 2 and 1. Law held the lead for the majority of the round, taking a 3-up lead following the 13th but Thomas responded winning 14 and 15 to bring it back to 1-up before Law birdied 17 for the win.

Washington will face returning national champion and Pac-12 foe Stanford in the final on Wednesday, which tees off at 2:10 p.m. All the action will be carried live on Golf Channel. The Huskies will be seeking their first National Championship in program history.