The last three NCAA champions have come from the Pac-12, all by teams finishing no higher than sixth in the conference championship. The Huskies won the 2016 NCAA title after placing sixth at the Pac-12 championship.
There is no shame in finishing where the Huskies did against an elite field in the Pac-12 women’s golf championships at Broadmoor Golf Club. That was the message, at least, from Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur following the Huskies’ seventh-place finish after the third and final round Tuesday.
A bottom-half finish, it turns out, has been fortuitous for Pac-12 teams in recent years, and the Huskies are well aware of that.
In 2015, Stanford won the NCAA title a month after finishing seventh at the Pac-12 championships.
In 2016, Washington was sixth at the Pac-12 championships; a month later, the Huskies won their first-ever NCAA golf title.
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In 2017, Arizona State followed the same script, finishing sixth at the conference tournament before winning the national title a few weeks later.
“It’s just ironic, isn’t it?” Mulflur wondered aloud.
Such is the level of competition in the conference.
Pac-12 teams have won seven of the last 10 national championships, and the conference has had the NCAA runner-up six times over the past decade. This year’s regional sites (May 7-9) are Austin, Texas, San Francisco, Tallahassee, Fla., and Madison, Wis.
So, no, the Huskies say they aren’t going to dwell on their shooting a 23-over 887 at their home course.
“It’s not the way you want to play, and certainly not the way you want to play at home, but hopefully we learned some things about ourselves this week and can take those and keep learning and keep rolling,” Mulflur said. “We’ll be fine.”
The Huskies, ranked No. 15 nationally by Golfstat, did get a boost from top-10 individual finishes from juniors Wenyung Keh and Sarah Rhee.
Keh closed with a 2-under 70 to surge six spots and finish in a tie for fifth at 2 under overall. She earned all-conference honors for the first time in her career.
“It was fun,” Keh said. “I’ve been staying in the present all week and just really enjoying it.”
Rhee had an up-and-down final round, posting a 3-over 75, but she closed strong. She sank a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 17 and nearly chipped in for birdie from the edge of the 18th green.
“There’s not many people in this field — there’s maybe one other person — who could execute that (chip) the way she executed it,” Mulflur said. “And she dang near made it.”
Rhee, an Ingraham High School graduate, finished in a tie for ninth place at 3-over 216.
“I had a lot of family and friends here this week, so it was really nice to be able to perform well in front of them,” Rhee said. “It’s been awhile. This spring season, my game has really started to kick off, so it’s nice to be consistent here.”
UCLA teammates Patty Tavatanakit and Lilia Vu, tied for the lead entering the final round, remained tied at 8 under through 54 holes. In the first hole of their playoff, Tavatanakit, a freshman ranked No. 5 nationally by Golfstat, parred No. 18 to claim medalist honors.
The No. 1-ranked Bruins, in a field that featured seven top-25 teams, won the team title with a three-round score of 4-under 860 — 12 strokes ahead of second-place USC. Arizona and Stanford tied for third at 873.