EUGENE, Ore. – Saving its best for last, Stanford fired a tournament-low 9-under-par score of 279 on Monday and soared into second place in the final round of the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships at Eugene Country Club.
The Cardinal finished the 72-hole medal play competition at 3-under 1,147, three strokes behind UCLA (1,144), and earned the chance to repeat its national title.
The top eight teams advanced to match play on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, where Stanford opposes South Carolina starting at 7 a.m. local time on the first tee. Winners move on to the afternoon semifinals, and the victors play for the national crown Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m so pleased,” said Anne Walker, the Milias Director of Women’s Golf. “Getting to the national championship is so difficult that you have to celebrate. This is not something to take for granted. We’re fired up.”
What changed Monday?
“I didn’t think we looked that much different today than we did all week,” she said. “This group is just steady. The first day, the speed on our putts was a little bit off and we didn’t make as many. I think we’ve kind of have the speed dialed in and they’re starting to drop in for us.”
Once again, the Cardinal executed its plan of playing smart, mistake-free golf at the demanding tree-lined layout, made tougher by off-and-on rain showers. Counting four of five scores, the team made 13 bogeys and only four bogeys, and feasted on the par-3s, touring them in 6-under.
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Stanford sizzled down the stretch, playing the last six holes 9-under without a bogey. After playing the tough par-4 18th hole 4-over on Thursday and 3-over Sunday, the team was even par Monday.
Stanford received a bogey-free 4-under 68 from junior Casey Danielson, who birdied 14, 16 and 17, and tied for sixth individually at 5-under 283. It matched her season-best round and marked the best showing by a Cardinal since 2014, when Lauren Kim finished third.
“I just stayed really patient with my putting and it paid off in the end,” Danielson said. “A few just fell for me and I just made sure I had really good speed, which made all the difference.”
Danielson made a 35-foot downhill birdie putt on the par-3 14th, then hit the par-5 17th hole in two from 210 yards and two-putted for a birdie from 30 feet.
“Highlight of my day,” she said of reaching the green in two.
Added Walker, “One of her better rounds under that much pressure. She looked so unfazed by it all the way to the finish.”
Sophomore Shannon Aubert also broke par Monday with a 3-under 69, carding four birdies and one bogey. She tied for 11th.
“We’re getting more comfortable with the course, so it just makes sense that we played better,” said Aubert.
Seniors Kim and Mariah Stackhouse also came through. Kim produced her best round of the week with a 70, making three back nine birdies. Stackhouse had two birdies and two bogeys, and played the back nine in 1-under. They tied for 27th.
“I had a lot of fun out there,” Kim said. “It felt good to make some birdies the last nine and play well for the team.”
Freshman Sierra Kersten hung tough and was 1-over through 11. She closed with 78 and tied for 73rd.
Virginia Elena Carta of Duke was the overall medalist with a tournament-record 16-under 272 total.
Last year, Stanford placed fourth in the medal play portion of the championship. The team edged Arizona and upset top-ranked USC, then beat Baylor, 3-2, when Stackhouse captured the deciding point with a two-putt par on the first hole of a sudden death playoff against Hayley Davis.
“We’ve put ourselves where we need to be,” said Stackhouse. “Once you get there, it’s just a shootout.”
Aubert experienced this last year, as she and Danielson forged 3-0 records in match play.
“It’s a whole new tournament,” she said. “There’s eight teams and anyone has a chance to win it. We have to bring our best stuff and just trust ourselves.”