Not even the term ‘dynasty’ can describe how well the UC Irvine women’s golf team has played over the past three years.
UCI captured its third straight Big West Championship with a dominating performance, winning by 28 shots over second-place Long Beach State.
‘I felt that we were pretty prepared and we were looking forward to three-peating,’ said UCI Head Coach Julie Brooks, who was recently named Big West Coach of the Year. ‘It was just a great overall team performance, where everyone contributed. It was just fun to watch as a coach.’
Freshman Patty Chawalitmetha was the top performer for the Anteaters, finishing in second place, one shot behind Long Beach State’s Kay Hoey. Chawalitmetha also shot a women’s course record of 66 during the second part of Monday’s competition.
Junior Selanee Henderson continued her dominance, finishing in third place, two shots behind her teammate.
Freshman Henna Chow rounded out the top 15, finishing in 14th place for UCI.
Chawalitmetha held a five-shot lead heading into the final 18 holes against Hoey but might have let her nerves get the best of her during the end of the tournament, which was held at Tijeras Creek Golf Club from April 23 to 24.
‘I was just nervous because I had never been in the lead like that for a while,’ Chawalitmetha said.
Nonetheless, her accomplishment is remarkable given the adversity she faced this season.
Chawalitmetha was told to take the entire winter quarter away from golf to focus on her academics after struggling with some of her classes. She was limited to playing in only the Anteater Invitational in March because of its close proximity to campus.
The time off seems to have helped as Chawalitmetha is not only succeeding in class but leads the team, along with Henderson, to another Big West Title.
‘I was just hungry to play and I treat every tournament as my last,’ Chawalitmetha said. ‘I just don’t want to have any regrets.’
Brooks said that she remained confident in her young freshman throughout the season.
‘I definitely knew that [Chawalitmetha] had it in her,’ Brooks said. ‘She has a real solid game, her ball striking is good and it was just a matter of dropping a few putts.’
Even with Henderson’s success, Brooks believes that Henderson can still improve her game.
‘There is a lot more that we are going to see from her,’ Brooks said, referring to Henderson. ‘Her short game is a lot better this season but we haven’t yet seen what she is capable of.’
With the win, the Anteaters receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional, which will be held on May 10 to 12 and likely be held at St. George, Utah.
Brooks’ squad has already had the advantage of playing at St. George earlier this season when the Anteaters took part in the Brigham Young University Dixie Classic in early April and finished tied for fourth place.
The top eight teams out of the 21 teams competing at the Regional will advance to the NCAA Championships, which will take place from May 22 to 25 at Daytona Beach, Florida.
‘We played pretty well at the BYU Tournament but the back nine is a little funky and a little different than what we are used to seeing,’ Brooks said. ‘I’m just crossing my fingers that everything works out because we are definitely playing good golf.’
A season ago, the women’s team also advanced to the NCAA Regionals but missed out on a chance to move onto the NCAA Championship.
The team finished in ninth place, two shots behind the eighth place Arkansas Razorbacks.