Stanford women’s golf hosted 17 teams this week in the NCAA Regional tournament at the Stanford Golf Course. With their postseason on the line, the Cardinal dominated, winning by a whopping 30 shots. Freshman Rachel Heck picked up her fifth win of the season with an 11-under-par total.
Stanford entered the NCAA Regional as the fifth-ranked team behind Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, USC and Virginia Tech. In the first round of the tournament, the Cardinal showed how they really stacked up against the field.
Freshman Sadie Englemann paced the Cardinal in the first round. Starting on the back nine, she birdied four of her first eight holes en route to a career-best, four-under-par 67. Sophomore Angelina Ye also came out firing, making birdies on each of her first three holes. After two late bogeys, she finished with a round of 69.
Heck got off to a slow start by her standards. Through 14 holes, she was even-par and in danger of losing her streak of consecutive rounds in the 60s. However, she made a late flurry of birdies and finished with a three-under-par 68. Sophomore Brooke Seay matched Heck’s 68 with a round that included six birdies.
At the end of the first round, Stanford stood at 12-under-par, 10 shots ahead of second-place Virginia Tech. The Cardinal tied the program record for the lowest 18-hole team score, which they had previously achieved at the 2017 Silverado Shootout. This record would last for about 24 hours.
In the second round, the Cardinal shot 13-under-par behind the stellar play of Ye, Heck, Seay and Englemann. At one point in the second round, all four golfers were improbably tied atop the individual leaderboard.
Ye led the way with a masterful, bogey-free 66. Heck followed with a 67. Seay posted her second consecutive round of 68, while Englemann shot 70.
Stanford’s lead had ballooned to 22 shots over Virginia Tech by the end of the second round. Heck and Ye were tied for the lead at seven-under-par, while Seay and Englemann were one and two strokes behind, respectively. With the team title all but secured, the drama in the final round would come on the individual side.
Junior Aline Krauter played her best golf in the final round. After opening with scores of 71 and 73, she made five birdies to shoot 70. Krauter’s one-over-par for the tournament was good for a 15th place finish.
Seay and Englemann both had a more difficult final round. After two days of superb golf, they dropped back to the field. Seay posted a five-over-par 76, while Englemann shot a six-over-par 77. Still, it was an exceptional week for the two golfers, who both finished in the top-15 overall.
With Seay and Englemann falling back, the table was set for Heck and Ye to compete for the regional championship. Ye teed off first, while Heck played behind in the final group.
Both golfers birdied the first hole and bogeyed the second. Ye bounced back with a birdie on the par three third hole to take a one shot lead. Heck responded with a birdie of her own on the par three fourth.
Entering the back nine, Heck was two-under-par on her round and held a slim, one stroke lead over Ye.
Both players made pars on 10, 11 and 12. Then, Ye made her move. She capitalized on excellent approach play to make birdies on 13, 15 and 16 to take the lead over Heck.
As Heck played the par five 16th hole, she trailed Ye by a shot. After splitting the fairway with her tee shot, she hit a wood just short and left of the green. From there, she beautifully executed a 30-yard pitch shot to set up an easy birdie. Then, on the par three 17th, she made yet another birdie to tie Ye.
After three rounds of nearly flawless golf, a player is bound to make a mistake. Ye, who at times looked superhuman during the NCAA Regional, is no exception. On the 18th hole, she made just her third bogey in the final 36 holes. With her bogey, she finished the tournament at 10-under-par.
After Ye’s bogey on 18, Heck just needed par to claim the NCAA Regional title. Drawing on experience from four previous wins this season, she did just that. Heck’s par on the difficult 18th gave her a one stroke victory.
This was a record-setting victory for Heck and Stanford. The Cardinal finished at 28-under-par and shattered the program’s 18, 36 and 54-hole scoring records along the way. Heck became just the second Stanford golfer to win the NCAA Regional individual title and now has the fourth-most wins in school history.
With their emphatic win, the Cardinal qualified for their 11th consecutive NCAA Championship. The team will head to Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the tournament, which begins May 21.