The 2015 NCAA women's golf championships have been hampered by weather delays, but there were no issues for the final day of match play as Stanford captured its first national title by defeating Baylor 3-2 in thrilling fashion.
The fourth-ranked Cardinal came into the match as a slight underdog against No. 3 Baylor, but they also had the best overall player in the match in Mariah Stackhouse. She used two birdies on the final two holes of regulation to force a sudden-death playoff against Hayley Davis.
On the first playoff hole, Davis left a short par putt to the right of the hole that would give Stackhouse the win and Stanford the championship.
Here's the final leaderboard from the team championship final on Wednesday.
|2015 NCAA Women's Golf Championship Finals|
|Shannon Aubert (Stanford)||Lauren Whyte (Baylor)||4 & 3|
|Casey Danielson (Stanford)||Laura Lonardi (Baylor)||2 Up|
|Dylan Kim (Baylor)||Lauren Kim (Stanford)||3 & 1|
|Giovana Maymon (Baylor)||Quirine Eijkenboom (Stanford)||4 & 3|
|Mariah Stackhouse (Stanford)||Hayley Davis (Baylor)||1 Up (19 Holes)|
Both Baylor and Stanford were coming off marathon sessions on Tuesday, needing to complete two rounds of play against Duke and USC, respectively, to secure their spots in the finals.
Baylor freshman Lauren Whyte told NCAA.com after yesterday's team win over Duke that fatigue and adrenaline were working against each other:
“It was a long day,” Whyte said. “There was a lot of adrenaline at the end there but I think it's sunk in this has happened and everybody is ready to go for tomorrow and really excited about what can happen.”
Whyte, who came through her Tuesday battle with Duke star Lisa Maguire all square, seemed to be fighting the fatigue issue on Wednesday. The freshman was fighting a losing battle most of the day before falling to Shannon Aubert, four and three.
Aubert deserves credit for coming into her own during match play. GolfWeek's Beth Ann Nichols noted Stanford's star freshman has been terrific coming into Wednesday:
Jason Dill of the Bradenton Herald noted on Twitter it wasn't unusual to see players struggle on the 13th hole at Concession Golf Club:
Stanford would take the lead again after Baylor tied the match thanks to Casey Danielson’s two-up victory over Laura Lonardi. This was on its way to being the best match of the day before Stackhouse's heroics. The two were all square heading into the 14th hole. The Cardinal standout captured the last two holes to give her team a 2-1 lead.
As steady as Danielson looked down the stretch, Lance Ringler of GolfWeek caught her coming off the 17th green seemingly feeling the pressure:
Stanford's lead would go away almost as quickly as it came. Baylor's Dylan Kim finished off Stanford's Lauren Kim, three and one, to even the match at two.
The Bears will be thinking about this loss for a long time because Davis appeared to have the match against Stackhouse in hand. Stackhouse was down by as many as three holes in the match before closing the gap to one heading into the 13th hole.
Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel noted Davis seemed to be feeling the heat from Stackhouse heading into the long par-five 13th hole by going for it with a long tee shot:
Stackhouse would help Davis out on the hole with a disastrous effort. She took seven shots and ended it with a 65-foot chip just to try to get on the green. She left it short, and the ball rolled down the hill, causing the junior to concede the hole.
The lead would fall back to one for Davis after Stackhouse took the 15th hole, but just as momentum seemed to shift back to Stanford, the Bears’ senior leader nailed a putt on No. 16 to go two up with two holes to play.
Stackhouse kept hope alive for the Cardinal with a birdie putt on No. 17—right after Davis hit a short par putt—to take the match into the final hole. The 2014 Amateur of the Year would square the match on the 18th hole with this birdie putt, per Golf Channel:
On the first playoff hole, Stackhouse kept Davis in the match after leaving a long birdie putt short. Davis needed to hit a short par putt, but her struggles down the stretch came out one more time in devastating fashion as the ball rested just to the right of the hole.
This was an amazing comeback for Stanford, as the Cardinal looked to be buried. Specifically, Stackhouse was out of sorts for most of the match. She only had one lead prior to the end, right after the first hole, and trailed by as many as three holes before bearing down when her team needed it the most.
Baylor was within one shot of winning a national title multiple times, but Stackhouse proved why she is going to be a force in the sport for a long time after her college career ends.