Twenty-four teams, 126 individuals set for 72-hole competition
All the heavyweights of NCAA women’s golf will be out when the Division I championships get under way Tuesday morning on the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga.
And only one fact is certain: any number of teams and individual student-athletes are poised to shine. Twenty-four teams and 126 individuals will compete in 72 holes of championship competition during the course of four days. In the team play, the low-four individual scores for each team will count in each day’s total score.
Top-ranked Southern California, the 2013 Pac-12 and NCAA West Region champion with a school-record six victories, leads the nation with an active streak of seven consecutive NCAA top-five finishes. It won the title in 2003 and in 2008 and finished second by one stroke both in 2010 to Purdue and 2012 to Alabama.
Freshman Annie Park finished first at the Pac-12 and NCAA West Region events and is seeking her third consecutive individual title in Athens. Another freshman, Kyung Kim, shot a school-record 63 on the final day of the NCAA West Regional to climb into a tie for third.
But for the Trojans to capture another title this season, obviously they will have to deal with defending national champion Alabama and third-ranked Duke, winners of the NCAA Central Regional.
The Crimson Tide are ranked second in the country and recently became the first team in the history of the Southeastern Conference to sweep all four of the SEC’s major postseason awards. Junior Stephanie Meadow became the first Alabama women’s golfer to win SEC Player of the Year and just the third player in conference history to also win SEC Scholar-Athlete of the year in the same season. Coach Mic Potter was named SEC Coach of the Year and Emma Talley became the third Alabama golfer in the past four years to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
“It’s great to see our team performing not only on the course, but in the classroom,” Potter said.
No one in the SEC accomplished those two tasks at a higher level than Meadow, a native of Northern Ireland who hammered the competition at the SEC championship, winning the individual title by nine strokes. She leads the nation with a 71.50-stroke average, has shot par or better in 16 of her 26 rounds and has finished inside the top 10 in eight of nine events this season.
Meadow, an accounting major, also owns a 4.0 GPA and has been on the Dean’s List at Alabama each semester of her collegiate career.
“Stephanie [Meadow] has been so good all season, “ said Potter, whose team also went on to capture the NCAA East Region title. “Winning the SEC Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year is a testament to her hard work and dedication.”
Duke is led by Alejandra Cangrejo, a junior from Bogota, Colombia, and freshman Celine Boutier from Montrouge, France. Cangrejo carded rounds of 72, 69 and 70 to finish tied for second at the NCAA Central Regional.
Duke came from behind to edge fourth-ranked Oklahoma in the regional, making up six strokes on the final day of play. Coach Dan Brooks said he thinks his team is peaking at the right time as the Devils advanced to the NCAA championship for the 25th time in school history and for the 18th time in the past 19 years. They won five national titles in a span of nine years under Brooks, beginning in 1999 and ending in 2007.
“Every season is a different thing and we just keep going after it,” Brooks said. “It took us a while to get a win this year. A lot of times you are doing great things, but not quite winning. This spring we had a lot of thirds and runner-ups, but [were] just not quite getting the big trophy.”
Brooks and the remaining field will soon find out who has what it takes to hoist the biggest trophy of them all.