The Washington Huskies earned the school’s first NCAA Division I women’s golf national championship, defeating Stanford 3-2 in the final match at the Eugene Country Club, a par 72, 6,369-yard course.
With the match tied at 1-all, Ying Luo holed out from 51 yards on 18 for birdie to halve and take the match 1-up over Casey Danielson.
“I used my 64-degree wedge, and I couldn’t believe it went in,” Luo said. “I was thinking to put that in, and I did it. I was thinking about Sarah [Rhee].”
Washington then looked like it was on the cusp of clinching the match behind the play of Julianne Alvarez as the freshman was 3-up after 15. However, Stanford’s Lauren Kim came back, winning 16, 17 and 18 to bring the match back to all square.
“It started on 15 where I was hitting my approach in and I happened to get a glance at the scoreboard and I think we were down in three matches so that motivated me to turn on some heat,” Kim said.
While that match went to extra holes, Mariah Stackhouse tied the overall match up at 2-all when she won 1-up on Sarah Rhee. Stackhouse was 3-up on Rhee heading into the 15th hole before the Washington freshman picked up wins on three straight holes to bring the match to all square and force a play-off.
“My match was pretty steady most of the way through up until 15,” Stackhouse said. “I had control for the majority of the day, and then on 15 she birdied and I kind of let my emotions get to me a little bit there for a second, just because I was disappointed with the result I got on my second shot. After that she birdied, and you can’t get mad at losing a hole when somebody birdies, so I just tried to turn it around, but her putter got hot. She just started making everything. But I was able to hold her off once we went into 18, and we halved that hole and continued.”
Moving to the play-off hole, the two halved on the first one and then Stackhouse stuck the par putt on the second one to claim the win.
The deciding point then shifted back to Alvarez and Kim who halved the first play-off hole and then headed to the second one. After a shaky second shot from Alvarez, she nailed the third shot to within inches of the hole and conceded par.
“I would say a little bit of nerves played into my game, especially on the last hole,” Alvarez said. “I was really nervous on the green. But then, you know, knowing that I was still in it, I wasn’t out yet, I still had those extra playoff holes. I needed to regroup. I had no time to be frustrated or angry. I just had to focus on getting the job done.”
Kim, whose third shot sailed well past the hole, missed her par putt, giving Alvarez the victory and the Huskies their first championship.
“Just incredibly proud of these guys,” Washington head coach Mary Lou Mulfur said. “I keep saying the same thing over and over, but they just are a special, special group, and sometimes it’s just your turn, and the things that happened this week with Sarah holing out of the bunker yesterday and Ying’s hole-out today and Julianne’s chip shot and people coming left and right doing things, and steady senior leadership that gets us here, I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”
In the first two matches to finish, Stanford’s Shannon Aubert won 2&1 over Charlotte Thomas while Wenyung Keh of Washington defeated Sierra Kersten 4&3.
“The way that the national championships have played out has just been unbelievable,” Washington senior Charlotte Thomas said. “You think about last year, and it was [Baylor’s] Haley [Davis] and Mariah, two of the best players in college golf going down in extra holes to the championship, and then this year Julianne, Sarah, Ying, doing all these crazy things in order to get the title. It’s amazing for TV, and it showed people that girls can do it, too …we are just as exciting.”