The No. 7 women’s golf team had its eyes set on a national championship before No. 2 Duke narrowly outlasted the Cardinal 3-2 in the NCAA quarterfinals at the Blessings Golf Club on Tuesday night. In the team’s fifth-consecutive appearance in match play at the national championships, the final match between the two respected programs lasted 24 holes, making it the longest match in NCAA women’s golf history.
The Margot and Mitch Milias Director of Women’s Golf Anne Walker admired how much fight the lower-seeded Cardinal displayed in their competitive showing against the Blue Devils.
“That’s probably one of the better matches we’ve ever had just as far as quality of golf goes and the consistency of the demands on the players to make big putts to match pars, or birdies or to make birdies to get a hole back,” she said. “To come from down three and eventually push it six holes and lose on a birdie — it was phenomenal. I’m just incredibly proud of all the players top to bottom and the way they contributed to this event.”
The match started off 8 a.m CT. However, it was delayed for six hours starting at 10 a.m. due to stormy weather conditions. Once the teams began to play, both teams deemed themselves worthy of a spot at the top.
Stanford was off to a rough start with junior Albane Valenzuela and sophomore Mika Liu falling short of their wins in their preliminary rounds. Despite trailing by two holes two different times, Valenzuela fought back twice to tie it. She was ultimately defeated one-up to Duke’s Gina Kim, who stroke a birdie on 18 to win the contest.
Liu led by two twice, but a bogey on 18 would end her match in a one-up loss.
The hit that won it all came from Duke’s Elena Carta who helped her team emerge from a seemingly never-ending tie after converting her tee shot into a masterful birdie.
“You have to have the players and the experience and the season that even puts you in a position to be a national champion, and we did that. That’s all you can do,” Walker said. “We made it to match play again for the fifth consecutive year, which is just an unbelievable run. And we went to 24 holes to be kept from going to our fifth-straight final four. It never comes easy, we work hard for it, but we’ve been very fortunate to enjoy the success that we’ve had at Stanford.”