USC Falls In NCAA Championships Match Play Semifinals|
May 26, 2015
Each player on the USC women's golf team played over 100 competition holes this week over five days, but fell short of earning 18 more, losing in the semifinals of the first ever NCAA Championships match play tournament to Stanford, 3-2, on Tuesday (May 26) at the Concession G.C. in Bradenton, Fla.
The Trojans, who won the stroke play portion of the championship by five shots to earn the top seed Monday in match play and then defeated Washington in a come-from-behind effort this morning, couldn't pull off another win, falling to a hot Cardinal team that defeated fellow Pac-12 squad Arizona in the quarterfinals.
"Match play is unpredictable. When you play stroke play, there's four days and that's an endurance race," USC Coach Andrea Gaston said. "You know you have to play and you know there will be times where you're not playing you're best and you have to minimize your mistakes and try to make your bad day not too bad. But in match play, anyone can catch fire. Stanford is a great team and we give them credit. We really had to battle."
The loss also ended the USC career of junior Annie Park, the 2013 NCAA Player and Freshman of the Year and the Trojans' career leader in individual titles (six), who is turning pro.
"We played well throughout the week and fought hard," said Park, who, like her teammates, will play in U.S. Open Qualifying events next week. Unlike her teammates, she will then begin playing on the pro circuit. "It was hard to come back in the morning, finish late, come back in the morning, finish late again this week. It was tough but we held it together well.
"I knew that I could've done better today. I struggled. I feel bad for the team. I wanted to help them. That whole last round, I could've done so much better.
The Trojans, who extended their streak of NCAA Championships top 5 finishes to 10, saw their quest for a fourth NCAA team title end when junior Kyung Kim's 20-foot putt on 17 went left.
Freshman Amy Lee turned in her best effort of the championships, defeating Stanford's top player, Mariah Stackhouse, 6&4, to give USC a 1-0 lead while sophomore Karen Chung eked out a slim lead in the first match.
Kim sliced a four-hole deficit to one on hole 9 as Then closed to within two holes on 8. But as Lee clinched her win, Kim and Then fell back four holes again.
Park, all square after 12, dropped four straight holes to Stanford's Shannon Aubert, ultimately losing 4&2 when she sent a pair of errant tee shots on 16 into the water before conceding the hole. Shortly after, Then fell 5&3 to Lauren Kim.
While Chung moved into a playoff, where she would eventually defeat Quirine Eijkenboom on the second hole, Kim attempted to pull off a miraculous rally.
Needing to win the four final holes to force a playoff, Kim first birdied 15 from about 20 feet to close to within three. She sent her approach shot on 16 deep on the green, leaving her some 60 feet to stay alive and the two-time All-American first teamer drained her putt to force action to the 17th hole.
The hot streak ended there as her second shot went into the water and her birdie putt to stay alive missed.
"We had a lot of fun," Gaston said. "It was an endurance race anyway. It was very wearing, with the starting and stopping, the amount of play and the heat and humidity. I'm really proud of the girls. It took a lot for the girls to hang in there."
USC vs. Washington recap
Late in the round, action intensified.
While Park was battling Yung Luo on 18, Then was trying to close out Jennifer Yang on 17, both golfers sending their second shots on the long par 5 left and down from the green, each within inches of the water. Neither golfer did much with their third shot but Then gave herself a makeable par with her fourth while Yang missed badly with her next to shots.
Some 400 yards away on 18, Park closed out Luo, who needed a bogey to tie but couldn't get one. Moments later, Then sank her par putt from about eight feet away for the clincher.
Chung had the least drama among USC's three morning wins, never trailing. She was 2up at the turn, led only by one after 13, but won the 15 and 17th holes to down Eimi Koga 3&1. Park won her first four holes against You but led only 1up at the turn and was tied after 12. She went up two after big putts on 13 and 14 but dropped 16 and had to grind it out from there. Her 18th hole wasn't pretty, but was just good enough.
Then never trailed in her match either with Yang, leading 1up at the turn and briefly by 2up after 13 before the Husky made two great birdie putts on 14 and 15. Yang conceded 16 after she sent a drive into the water, setting up the drama on 17.
Neither Lee or Kim could get anything going in the first round. Kim fell to Charlotte Thomas, 6&5, winning just one hole, while Lee lost 5&4 to Cyd Okino, also with just one win.