'Daddy's girl' Mariah Stackhouse clinches Stanford's title
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Once the reality of victory hit Wednesday, all the Stanford moms, dads and other family members screamed and hugged amongst themselves exactly like the Cardinal players.
Seconds before, Stanford had beaten Baylor for the 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship at hole No. 10 of Concession Golf Club. Ken Stackhouse, whose daughter Mariah had defeated Baylor's Haley Davis in the day's fifth and deciding match, was one of those parents jumping and exulting along with Mariah's stepmom, Caroline Stackhouse.
He also was being a dad.
"Hey, Mr. Stackhouse!" one of Mariah's teammates said as she ran up to dump off a backpack. "Can you hold this?"
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"This goes with these girls and the parents forever," Ken Stackhouse said with smile, citing Stanford's first NCAA women's golf title. "This is a really good championship. It's special."
Davis' putt for par on the first playoff hole of her match with Mariah Stackhouse didn't fall, clinching the title for Stanford and Stackhouse, who already had tallied a par at No. 10. Trailing by two points heading to 17 and 18, Stackhouse had rallied back, winning 17 and pulling within a point of Davis, then winning 18 and tying her to force playoff golf.
"This is the type of stuff me and him have talked about since I was very little," Mariah said of her dad. "And these are the moments that he's always wanted for me."
One of the nation's top collegiate golfers -- All-American as a freshman and sophomore and a member of the 2014 U.S. Curtis Cup team -- Stackhouse has her father to thank for her golfing passion.
She says she was a "daddy's girl" even as a little tyke, often accompanying him to local courses near her hometown of Riverdale, Ga., an Atlanta suburb.
"It means a lot," she said of him being in the Stanford gallery during this six-day championship marathon at Concession, which included Tuesday's 36 holes of quarterfinal and semifinal matches. "My dad's the reason I play golf. I know he really, really loved being out here this week. The 36 holes yesterday — that's seven rounds of golf and he walked every bit of it."
"We got here on Friday, and we slogged through all these hot days and humid and storming days, and here we are," Ken Stackhouse said. "It's just amazing."
Mariah's season hasn't been to her usual par. She admittedly has struggled during her junior campaign, although she carded the tournament's low individual round, a four-under-par 68 in last Friday's first round, and finished sixth in the individual championship standings.
"Really, she'd been struggling with her game this year," her father said. "She was upset that she didn't make All-America, but I think this'll go a long way to kind of rectify that situation for her. So I'm very happy for her, very proud of her -- the entire team."
Though Stackhouse trailed during most of Wednesday's championship match with Davis, she made her move late into the back nine, rebounding despite twice overshooting the green on the par-five No. 13 -- after she'd sliced the deficit to Davis to one point.
"I get a little apprehensive at times, but I don't get very nervous," Ken Stackhouse said of watching his daughter play. "I just sit back and wait and hope, and this time the hope is enough."
A confident player unafraid of bold strokes and strategy, Mariah nevertheless said it was comforting at times to hear her father use her childhood nickname from beyond the ropes.
"And even when I wouldn't do good, I'd hear his voice -- 'good job Minnie, you got it'" she said. "I'd come off the green, he'd be like, ‘hang in there, stay fighting.' So he was definitely there every step of the way."
The rest of the Stackhouse family -- Mariah's younger brother John and two step-siblings -- were, uh, in the vicinity on Wednesday.
"They're hanging out at the beach," Ken Stackhouse with a chuckle. "And so they are missing this and they will be sorry."