Men’s NCAA Championship to follow at Concession next week
Change permeates the air of the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships, which begin today in Bradenton, Fla., and will be played through Wednesday at The Concession Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course designed in association with Tony Jacklin.
This year, the championship will be decided with a new format and seen via a new television partner. The Golf Channel will provide live coverage of the final three rounds: Monday from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. ET, Tuesday from 3:30 to 7:00 p.m. ET, and Wednesday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. ET.
Next week’s Division 1 Men’s Golf Championships will also be played at The Concession. The men’s competition will feature 156 participants and 30 teams from six regional events. There are also six men, one from each event, who qualified as individuals. Both NCAA championship events are being hosted by the University of South Florida.
The Concession Golf Club—whose name was inspired by Jack Nicklaus’ act of sportsmanship at the 1969 Ryder Cup, when he conceded a putt to Jacklin on the 18th green of the final match that led to the Ryder Cup’s first-ever tie—was named “Best New Private Course” by Golf Digest shortly after opening for play in 2006. The magazine has also included it in its rankings of America’s Greatest Golf Courses, America’s 75 Toughest Golf Courses, and Best-in-State rankings.
In the women’s competition, reigning NCAA champion Duke returns to defend its title, and other perennial Division I contenders are back in the field.
“I love this time of year,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks, who leads all NCAA Division I coaches with 122 tournament wins. “I think when I won’t love this time of year, it’ll be time to hang it up, but I can’t wait to get down to Florida.”
The top six teams from the four regionals played May 7-9, plus the top-12 individuals not on an NCAA finals-qualifying team, form the lineup for Friday’s opening round. Those 24 teams and 12 individual competitors will play 54 holes of stroke play.
Following Monday’s completion of those four rounds, the top-15 teams plus the top-nine individuals all advance to another day of stroke play on Tuesday. The results of Tuesday’s round will determine the individual 72-hole champion. It also will cull the final 15 teams for Wednesday’s seeded match-play round that will determine the team champion.
Sixth-ranked Duke returns seeking a seventh NCAA title and its first back-to-back since winning three consecutive Division I titles from 2005 to 2007 . The Blue Devils beat Atlantic Coast Conference rival and No. 14 Wake Forest by three strokes to win the regional crown in South Bend, Ind. Fifth-ranked Arizona finished fourth.
In fact, it was a Blue Devil-themed weekend. Freshman Leona Maguire’s individual title in South Bend marked her second consecutive tournament victory (she has three overall this season). Junior teammate Celine Boutier finished second by one stroke.
Boutier, the 2014 Player of the Year and Division I individual runner-up, and sophomore Sandy Choi are the only returning Blue Devils from last season’s championship squad. They’ll be joined in Bradenton by a trio of talented freshmen that includes Leona Maguire, Lisa Maguire and Gurbani Singh.
“We only have two players coming back from [last] year’s nationals, Celine and I, but we just came off winning regionals as a team and I think we all feel pretty good about that,” Choi said. “And the freshmen are playing really well.”
Leona Maguire, currently the top-ranked Division I player in Golfweek’s collegiate rankings, views Duke’s youth as a mostly good thing.
“It’s definitely a benefit that we don’t really have as much expectations and pressure on us as some other teams if we were returning five that won the national championship last year,” she said. “But then again, we don’t really know what to expect. So the upperclassmen have been key in trying to explain to us what to expect.”
One of those expectations should be a challenge from reigning Division I runner-up Southern California, which also arrives in Bradenton as a regional champion. The third-ranked Trojans led all three rounds of the regional in St. George, Utah, with UNLV’s Dana Finkelstein taking the individual victory. USC, the 2013 NCAA champion, seeks its fourth national title and is riding a streak of five consecutive top-five NCAA finishes.
Fourth-ranked South Carolina won the Raleigh, North Carolina, regional and advanced to its sixth consecutive NCAA final. The Gamecocks had to fight rallies from Southeastern Conference rivals Alabama (the 2012 NCAA champion) and No. 7 LSU in order to prevail in the final round. LSU’s Madeline Sagstrom won the individual regional title.
No. 19 Baylor faced a different script in the San Antonio regional, storming back from a four-stroke deficit to second-round leader Tennessee. The Bears eventually beat second-place and No. 2 UCLA by three strokes while No. 13 Tennessee finished third. Baylor’s Haley Davis led her team’s charge with a 7-under 65, which was good enough to secure low-medalist honors.
Top-ranked Washington finished fifth in San Antonio, thus will appear in Bradenton.
The teams and individuals advancing to the 2015 championships finals are listed below.
Raleigh Regional Site:
1. University of South Carolina, Columbia
2. Northwestern University
3. North Carolina State University
4. University of Alabama
5. Louisiana State University
6. Campbell University
1. Lena Schaeffner, Coastal Carolina University
2. Taylor Totland, Furman University
3. Karolina Vlckova, University of Florida
South Bend Regional Site:
1. Duke University
2. Wake Forest University
3. University of California, Davis
4. University of Arizona
5. Tulane University
6. Purdue University
1. Michaela Fletcher, University of Memphis
2. Leilanie Kim, University of Idaho
3. Isabelle Johansson, University of Kentucky
San Antonio Regional Site:
1. Baylor University
2. University of California, Los Angeles
3. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
4. Texas A&M University, College Station
5. University of Washington
6. Texas Tech University
1. Monica Vaughn, Arizona State University
2. Anica Yoo, Oregon State University
3. Bertine Strauss, University of Texas at Austin
St. George Regional Site:
1. University of Southern California
2. Stanford University
3. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
4. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
5. University of Virginia
6. University of California, Berkeley
1. Alivia Brown, Washington State University
2. Meghan MacLaren, Florida International University
3. Emily Williams, Middle Tennessee State University