After a continued surge that saw it reach second place, the USC women’s golf team fell agonizingly short of victory, falling by a single stroke at the 2012 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships in Franklin, Tenn.
The tournament, hosted by Vanderbilt, saw Alabama prevail with a final score of 19-over-par 1171 after four rounds. The No. 3 Women of Troy fell a stroke short for the second time in the last four years, coming in at 20-over-par 1172. A late charge propelled LSU to third place at 21-over-par 1173, while Virginia took fourth place at 23-over-par 1175.
The Women of Troy were led up front by freshman Doris Chen, who finished tied for 14th at 5-over-par 293. Seniors Lisa McCloskey and Inah Park finished tied for 21st at 6-over-par 294. Sophomore Sophia Popov concluded the tournament tied for 38th at 9-over-par 297, while sophomore Rachel Morris tied for 77th at 16-over-par 304.
After hitting seventh place at the midpoint of the tournament, the Women of Troy skyrocketed to second at the conclusion of three rounds.
Chen moved into seventh place at par 216, notching two birdies in the final three holes to finish even on the back nine. Park tied for 17th at 4-over-par 220 and shot 3-under-par during the last ten holes of the third round to overcome a slow start.
Fellow senior McCloskey stood tied for 27th at 6-over-par 222 while recording three birdies. Popov tied for 40th after three at 8-over-par 224, but aptly finished the round with consecutive birdies. Morris, after leading the team through the first round, regressed to 82nd at 14-over-par 230, notching a birdy on her final hole.
The strong play through the second and third rounds was not lost on two-time former coach of the year Andrea Gaston, who’s in her 16th season with the club.
“It was so tough out there today,” Gaston said. “The greens were so fast. The balls were rolling as if they were on tabletops. You have to be patient and I think we were.”
Gaston was pleased with the play her team as a whole.
“Inah Park was very clutch today and Doris played great. All the girls really fought the conditions well,” Gaston said. “We knew if we could start the backside and get it over with reasonably well, we would have a chance to rally on the front.”
It was only fitting that the tournament came down to the last shot. After Park sank a birdie to cut the lead to one stroke, Alabama’s Brooke Pancake needed to hit two putts to notch the victory, with three putts boosting the Women of Troy to a playoff.
Alas, Pancake sealed the deal on the second putt after a narrow miss, powering the Tide to the championship.
Though the outcome is certainly not what the team wanted, the season proved to be more than respectable, as inconsistency and a fall injury to Popov limited the Women of Troy’s ability to compete as effectively as they did during their stellar 2010-2011 campaign. The team will move forward and has its sights for next season, beginning play in February.