BRYAN, Texas – UCLA won its third Division I Women’s Golf National Championship on Saturday evening, defeating second-place and defending national champion Purdue by four shots as darkness fell at Traditions Club.
LSU freshman Austin Ernst won the individual title, finishing at 7-under-par for the championship after posting a second 66 on Saturday that included a hole-in-one on the par-3 second hole.
|GOOD WORK, ROOKIE|
|BRYAN, Texas – Austin Ernst’s rollercoaster week at the Division I Women’s Golf Championships ended with her hoisting the individual championship trophy Saturday night at Traditions Club. Ernst’s round was spurred on by a hole-in-one – one of five during these championships – on the 165-yard second.|
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|• Team Results | Individual Results|
Ernst is the first freshman to win the Division I individual title since USC’s Jennifer Rosales did it in 1998.
For all of the contending teams, Saturday was a very long day. UCLA, Purdue and LSU each had to finish their third-round play early Saturday morning after Friday’s play was suspended due to darkness. Then all had to return for fourth-round play late Saturday afternoon.
UCLA began the final round with a seven-shot advantage on Purdue. Slowly, the Boilermakers chipped away at the lead, taking the top spot by a stroke as the final group played the 13th hole. In the end, however, it was the Bruins who pulled away in the closing moments, getting nothing worse than a par from any of its players over the closing four holes.
Stephanie Kono and senior Glory Yang – who said earlier this week that Saturday’s final round may be her last – each birdied the 18th hole.
By day’s end, a teary UCLA head coach Carrie Forsyth was drained.
“It was pretty intense out there,” she said. “We were not playing very well for a while, then it got a little too close for comfort for a little while, but we came back and made some birdies.
“It was awesome, but I’ve got more gray hairs than I did when we started this day, that’s for sure. At the end of the year, this is the one that everybody wants to win.”
The final margin may well have been closer, but Purdue senior Thea Hoffmeister was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. The total score on her card (75) was correct, but she had signed for a score higher than she had on the par-4 12th, but also signed for a five on the par-5 18th hole when she had actually scored a six.
According to head NCAA rules official Heidi Olson, signing for a higher score than what you shoot carries no penalty, but signing for a score lower is an automatic disqualification, even when the total score is correct.
“The player is responsible for the hole-by-hole score, not just the total,” Olson said.
As a result of the disqualification, Purdue was forced to take a 77 from Maude-Aimee LeBlanc instead of the 75 that Hoffmeister shot.
Teams start five players and keep the top four scores.
Purdue head coach Devon Brouse was bothered by the error.
“You shouldn’t have to teach that lesson too many times because if you do that in the last round of the NCAA tournament, obviously there are going to be some consequences.”
Still , Brouse said he did soften the message to Hoffmeister.
“I just gave her a hug and said, ‘You know what? It’s a mistake. We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.’
“It’s a little surprising because she’s a very bright girl, but you get excited, you get nervous, things happen.”
Tiffany Lua led the Bruins, finishing at 1-under for the tournament, good enough to tie for fourth in the individual race.
“For me, the whole back nine was a bit of a blur,” Lua said. “We definitely just fought for every single shot out there. “
Lua said winning a national championship caused her to get a bit reflective.
“At the beginning of the year, we set our goals and everybody wants to win the national championship and you think about all the extra workouts and all the extra practices that you dreaded to go through but you did it as a team.
“You look back now and you think to yourself that it’s all worth it.”
For much of Saturday, there was doubt as to whether or not the final round would be completed before dark on Saturday. Tournament officials were even planning to put utility vehicles with lights on the area surrounding the 18th hole to light the green if need be. In the end, the tournament ended was mere minutes of daylight to spare, a fact Forsyth was glad for.
“We definitely didn’t want to come back and play tomorrow,” she said.