Chen Wins NCAA Individual Title, Trojans Finish 2nd
May 23, 2014
Junior Doris Chen became USC's fifth NCAA individual title winner at 6-under 274, leading a No. 1 Trojan team whose final-round rally fell just short, the squad finishing second by two strokes Friday (May 23) at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships at the Tulsa (Okla.) C.C.
USC, trying to defend its 2013 NCAA crown, combined for a four-day 12-over 1132 (293-291-278-270), behind only NCAA winner Duke's 10-over 1130 (293-285-278-274). UCLA was third at 25-over 1145.
"Obviously I knew we had a deficit we had to make up. We hadn't played the front 9 well all week and I knew we needed a fast start," USC 18th-year coach Andrea Gaston said. "They figured it out today and played incredibly well. Doris really got it going and turned at 4-under and hit some great shots. She really had some good momentum and Sophia Popov got off to a great start.
"We definitely had a chance and the momentum was in our favor, but Duke is a great team and did not bow down to our play. The back 9 they obviously put up some good scores as well and unfortunately we couldn't catch them."
Chen entered the week with three rounds in the 60s all season and matched the total in four days with her 274 (67-72-68-67).
She joins previous Trojan NCAA champions Annie Park (2013), Dewi Claire Schreefel (2006), Mikaela Parmlid (2003) and Jennifer Rosales (1998). Chen and Park are the first back-to-back NCAA women's champions from the same school since Duke had two in a row in 2001-02.
"I was glad that my putts were finally falling," Chen said. "The couple rounds before, I had stuck my shots close to the flag, but wasn't able to putt in from a medium distance. I hit some great shots today and my putting was there, too. Most of all I kept myself composed and enjoyed the game."
The Trojans, whose final round today broke the school record by two strokes, began the day six back of Duke after a third-round charge while Chen shared the lead at 3-under.
The junior got off to a fast start with a birdie on 2 and followed with back-to-back birdies on 4 and 5, the latter a 40-foot downhill attempt that broke left to right and crashed into the bottom of the hole. She saved par on eight and birdied 9 and 10 to get to 5-under for the round as she opened up a 5-stroke lead.
Chen wasn't alone as the Trojans rallied to take over the lead from Duke as the teams made the turn. Sophomore Kyung Kim was 2-under through 9 en route to a relatively quiet 3-under round without a bogey.
Meanwhile senior Sophia Popov put together a USC career-best effort, going 1-under through 9 en route to a 5-under 65 that featured an eagle on 16. Freshman Karen Chung, who saved par on 3 and 8 with amazing up-and-downs, was even through 9 and finished at 1-over while Park was 2-over at the turn before finishing at 1-over as well.
But a rare Chen misfire on her tee shot on 11 led to a double bogey as Duke and Blue Devil Celine Boutier drew close. In fact, Duke pocketed a pair of birdies about the same time as Chen's double and USC's biggest lead of the day - four strokes - was suddenly erased.
The Blue Devils continued to get hot down the stretch and a handful of late birdies to USC pars was the difference in the team race.
Chen still had work to do on 18, a late three-stroke lead now trimmed to one over Boutier. Chen left herself about 40 feet after her drive from the fairway, but sent her birdie putt to within a foot. Boutier missed her short par attempt, taking the pressure off Chen's winner, which she sunk for the two-stroke victory.
Kim finished tied for 16th at 5-over 285 (77-74-67-67) and she finished the season with 11 rounds in the 60s, breaking Park's record set earlier this year at 10.
Chung tied for 28th at 8-over 288 (74-70-73-71), Popov tied for 50th at 13-over 293 (79-79-70-65) and Park tied for 77th at 17-over 297 (75-75-76-71).
USC extends its national-best string of NCAA top 5 finishes to 9 and has finished second for the third time in the past 5 years - by a combined four strokes. In addition to today's two-stroke deficit, USC lost by one stroke to Alabama in 2012 and by one to Purdue in 2010. Troy has five second-place finishes overall to go with its three NCAA titles and has a combined 15 top 5 NCAA finishes.
The Trojans finished the year with nine wins - a school-record - and finished second in the other four events.
USC's five NCAA individual crowns are tied for the most in NCAA history with Arizona State. Popov's 65 is USC's lowest ever at an NCAA Championships.