NCAA women’s regionals: LSU survives; Augusta advances as 11 seed
The 2023 NCAA Division I women’s golf regionals are in the books.
All six No. 1 seeds – Stanford, Wake Forest, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Mississippi State – advanced, though the Tigers needed a spirited rally on the final nine in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to do so. On the other hand, three top-11 teams – No. 7 Auburn, No. 8 Oregon and No. 11 Arizona State – saw their seasons end.
And No. 11 Augusta was the worst seed to make it through.
Here are recaps of each of the six regionals:
Palm Beach Gardens Regional
PGA National Resort (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Advancing teams: 1. Michigan State (+8), 2. Duke (+11), 3. Northwestern (+14), 3. Texas (+14), 5. LSU (+15)
Just missed: 6. Arkansas (+16), 7. UCF (+27)
Individual winners: Latanna Stone, LSU, and Brooke Biermann, Michigan State (-3)
Advancing individual: Sarah Byrne, Miami (-2)
Big story: All season LSU head coach Garrett Runion has been preaching about “the final five.”
“Whatever you’re at in the round, you want to play the final five at your current score or better,” Runion explained. “Now, at some tournaments that’s harder to do than others.”
It doesn’t get any tougher than regionals, and on Wednesday at PGA National, the Tigers got the final fives that they needed from their three seniors. Heck, they got three clutch final nines.
Ingrid Lindblad, Latanna Stone and Carla Tejedo combined for a bogey-free 6 under on their second nines, the Champion Course’s front side, to help top-seeded LSU rally for a fifth-place finish, one shot ahead of Arkansas, and avoid becoming just the second No. 1 seed ever to fail to reach the NCAA Championship.
It was a weird finish as Tejedo was credited with two bogeys that should’ve been pars on Golfstat’s live scoring. Runion mentioned the errors to a volunteer, but they were never changed, and thus for much of the final stretch, it appeared as if Arkansas had the slight advantage. The scored were updated once Tejedo signed for a 3-under 69, and that meant that LSU had a one-shot lead with two groups still to play the par-4 ninth.
Lindblad and Arkansas’ Julia Gregg traded pars before Kajal Mistry stuffed an approach to 12 feet for a chance to force a playoff. Stone, 35 feet away for birdie, lagged close to set up a tap-in par. That set the stage for Mistry, who lipped out her birdie roll.
“She hit it, and it was in,” Runion said. “She started walking and it just 90-degreed on her. Our girls were shocked. They thought it was in. It looked so good the whole time and hit a ton of hole.”
Yet, it didn’t drop, and LSU dodged a massive bullet. The Tigers, however, chose not to look at it that way.
“They’re excited and pumped,” Runion said. “Look, we played well, but we also had a little bit of help. There’s a lot of ways to do it. They did help us a little bit, but at the same time we made birdies, which put pressure on them. I’m most proud that when it mattered the most, they executed the shots.”
University of Georgia GC, Athens, Georgia
Advancing teams: 1. Georgia (-13), 2. South Carolina (-11), 3. San Jose State (+14), 4. Ole Miss (+17), 5. Augusta (+21)
Just missed: 6. Ohio State (+23), 7. Maryland (+24), 8. Kansas (+26)
Individual winner: Jenny Bae, Georgia (-13)
Advancing individual: Leon Takagi, Kent State (-3)
Big story: Augusta didn’t just have a disappointing fall season. The Jaguars beat just one team, finishing last in three events and second to last in a fourth tournament.
“This team has been through so much starting with our really rough fall,” Augusta head coach Caroline Haase-Hegg said. “I think we were ranked in the 150s coming into the spring semester. We came overcame a lot of adversity and built our belief and our confidence from literally the ground up. We had none. Throughout this spring, we have gotten more and more comfortable in stressful situations to a point where they have been through so much and experienced the highs and lows. They are pretty unflappable.”
Augusta punched its ticket to an NCAA regional after winning the Southland Conference title and earned the No. 11 seed in Athens. And it didn’t stop there.
The Jaguars began Wednesday’s final round tied with Ole Miss and Ohio State for fifth, but they fell to the other side of the cut line after a 9-over front nine. That’s when freshman Mirabel Ting, the seventh-ranked individual in the country per Golfstat, led a final-nine rally. Ting holed out for eagle at the par-4 10th hole before playing her last nine holes in 6 under. Her 5-under 67 paced Augusta, which ended up two shots ahead of sixth-place Ohio State to earn its first trip to the NCAA Championship in program history.
The moment was especially impactful for Ting.
“It took a lot of determination and team support,” Ting said. “Last semester, I lost my dad, so to be playing in nationals, I know he is proud. I am very proud for my team on making it to nationals.”
Lonnie Poole GC, Raleigh, North Carolina
Advancing teams: 1. Arizona (-5), 2. North Carolina State (-3), 3. Wake Forest (E), 4. TCU (+2), 5. Florida State (+6)
Just missed: 6. Purdue (+9), 7. Arizona State (+10), 8. Florida (+14)
Individual winner: Dorota Zalewska, Chattanooga (-12)
Advancing individual: Zalewska
The Club at Chatham Hills, Westfield, Indiana
Advancing teams: 1. Mississippi State (-19), 2. Oregon State (-17), 3. Vanderbilt (-16), 4. Virginia (-15), 5. Tulsa (-9)
Just missed: 6. Iowa State (-4), 7. Tennessee (-1), 7. Xavier (-1), 9. Michigan (+9)
Individual winners: Amanda Sambach, Virginia, and Julia Lopez Ramirez, Mississippi State (-13)
Advancing individual: Isabella McCauley, Minnesota (-7)
Big story: Tulsa has a rich women’s golf history that includes four NCAA titles in the 1980s, all won under legendary coach Dale McNamara, who died last October at age 86. But the Golden Hurricane had not advanced to the NCAA Championship since 2008.
That is, until Wednesday.
Freshman Grace Kilcrease birdied eight of her first 13 holes at Chatham Hills, finished with a 6-under 66 that left her solo fifth individually and more importantly, helped sixth-seeded Tulsa shoot 4 under as a team and hold onto a fifth-place finish, five shots clear of Iowa State.
“This is a program changer,” Tulsa head coach Annie Young said. “Five years ago when I arrived here, we were ranked 147th in the country (Tulsa entered regionals ranked 36th), so the culture change has made the difference, and it’s been everyone involved in the program that has helped. These girls work hard, are fun to be around and they put their all into it each and every day. It’s really cool to see good people – these girls are good people and good golfers as well – be successful. I haven’t had a team that puts in this much effort and time and desire and has this much love for one another.
“It’s incredible that we got it done. They’re a young, young group (two freshmen, two sophomore in starting lineup), but they didn’t let that get in the way this week.”
San Antonio Regional
TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
Advancing teams: 1. Pepperdine (+9), 1. SMU (+9), 3. Texas A&M (+16), 3. Oklahoma State (+16), 5. New Mexico (+25)
Just missed: 6. Auburn (+29), 7. Denver (+33), 8. UCLA (+36)
Individual winner: Camryn Carreon, UTSA (-10)
Advancing individual: Carreon
Big story: You could say New Mexico flipped the script.
Entering Wednesday’s final round at TPC San Antonio, Auburn sat fifth, five shots clear of Denver in sixth and six ahead of the Lobos in seventh. On several occasions in recent years, it had been the Tigers turning in clutch final rounds in the postseason, most of them after starting the day outside of whatever cut line they were looking to finish on the other side of. But on this day it was New Mexico rallying – and Auburn falling short.
Senior Jenny Lertsadwattana shot 1-under 71 and the Lobos’ four counters shot even par on their final nine as New Mexico shot 1 over to finish at 25 over, climbing two spots on the leaderboard and clipping the Tigers by four shots. Auburn, which finished sixth to miss out on nationals for the first time since 2017, shot 11 over with just eight final-round birdies from its counters.
The Lobos are now headed to the NCAA Championship for the 16th time in school history and the first time since 2010.
“We have played so well this spring, coming down the stretch, that I knew that we could do this,” Lobos head coach Jill Trujillo said. “Coming into today, I knew we were capable of shooting a low round, but you can’t control what other teams are going to do. We just focused on all the good things we have been doing all spring and posted a good number. The swing started happening early on and these girls played so tough. It has been way too long since we made it to the finals. Women’s golf keeps getting better and better, so it has become more difficult to make it. I knew this team could do it and we aren’t done yet. We checked the box for winning the Mountain West. We checked the box for getting to regionals, and now we checked the box for making it to Scottsdale.
“Now, we want to check the box of making it to match play.”
Palouse Ridge, Pullman, Washington
Advancing teams: 1. Stanford (-50), 2. Clemson (-33), 3. USC (-26), 4. Baylor (-23), 5. Texas Tech (-19)
Just missed: 6. Kentucky (-16), 7. Sacramento State (-9), 8. Houston (-7)
Individual winner: Rose Zhang, Stanford (-19)
Advancing individual: Tiffany Le, UC-Riverside (-14)
Big story: Down two starters due to season-ending injuries, Stanford showed that its still the overwhelming favorite to defend its NCAA title.
Minus Rachel Heck and Brooke Seay, who haven’t competed all spring, the top-ranked Cardinal lapped the field at Palouse Ridge by 17 shots in shooting 50 under, breaking the NCAA postseason record and tying the program record for 54-hole team score in relation to par.
Sophomore Rose Zhang also won, her seventh individual title this season and 11th for her career. She birdied five of her last six holes to close in 7-under 65 and finish at 19 under, four shots ahead of runner-up, teammate Sadie Englemann, who posted her best score in college and was the only player in this week’s field to not post a bogey.
Just four golfers, men or women, have won 11 tournaments at Stanford – Tiger Woods, Patrick Rodgers and Maverick McNealy also each captured 11 individual titles in their Cardinal careers. None of them did it in as few starts as Zhang has (19).