It was a promising start for the UC Irvine women’s golf team.
Playing the NCAA Championships for only the second time in school history, the Anteaters couldn’t have pictured a better first round.
Junior Selanee Henderson shot the best round of the day, a three-under-par 69, and was sitting on top of the individual leader board.
Her teammates were just as impressive, and the Anteaters sat in seventh place, just eight shots off the lead heading into the second round of competition.
Then all of the breaks that seemed to be going in UCI’s favor started to disappear, and mother nature certainly didn’t help as the weather conditions made an already difficult course even more challenging.
‘We liked being in [seventh place], and we were looking forward to maintaining that position the next day,’ said UCI Head Coach Julie Brooks, describing the team’s mood after a highly successful first round. ‘But we played in the afternoon, and that is when it was really windy.’
The final three rounds of the tournament didn’t exactly go according to plan and the Anteaters slipped from seventh place to 16th place at the end of the second round.
Henderson also dropped from first place all the way down to 14th place in the individual standings with an uncharacteristic eight-over-par 80.
It has been a trying past two weeks for Henderson, who sat in first place after round one despite battling a 103-degree fever just 10 days before the start of the Championships.
Nonetheless, Henderson was the top performer for the Anteaters and finished in 40th place.
During the third round, UCI fell to 20th place, and Duke University started to pull away from the competition.
UCI finished in 19th place during the four-day NCAA Championships, which took place from May 22 to 25 at the LPGA International Golf Course in Daytona Beach, Florida.
‘They were really excited to be here and looking forward to competing, but at the same time, they expected more,’ Brooks said. ‘We played well all year but to shoot some of the scores we did the last three days is very unlike them. They would probably say they are a little disappointed.’
Duke University ended up holding on to the lead and won the tournament by 15 shots over second-place Purdue. Duke has been unbeatable during the playoffs, winning the NCAA Championship three straight years.
The Anteaters had freshman Patty Chawalitmetha place 69th, junior Kim Lorenzana 72nd, junior Jane Chin 106th and freshman Henna Cho rounded out the UCI lineup with a 117th-place finish.
Brooks described the team’s experience after the tournament but refused to blame the windy conditions at the course for the team’s struggles after the first round.
‘It was a good experience for the team,’ Brooks said. ‘We struggled in the wind, as it was sometimes swirling and sometimes confusing. The winds did play a role [with the high scores] but was not the entire reason we struggled. We weren’t as sharp in the chipping and putting, but the greens were kind of tricky for the girls.’
Aside from the 19th-place finish, the future looks bright for the golf team.
With the entire roster returning next season, a trip to the NCAA Championships for the second straight season is very likely for the Anteaters.
‘Next year, I think you will see a team that is experienced,’ Brooks said. ‘I think [this tournament] is going to be one of those things where we learn from what happened, myself as a coach and the players, and try to figure out what went wrong.’
The tournament officially ended the Anteaters’ season, and Brooks, who was also named the Big West Coach of the Year earlier in the year, described the past season as ‘awesome, incredible,’ and said that she ‘couldn’t have asked for anything better.’
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