Head Coach Julie Brooks said she was nervous, couldn’t fall asleep and was unable to eat anything the day before the final round of the women’s golf NCAA Regional competition.
With just one round of golf remaining, Brooks’ team was in fourth place and needed to finish in the top eight to advance to the NCAA Championships.
While Brooks was filled with anxiety, her players suffered from none of their coach’s symptoms as they continued to play consistent golf throughout the final round and finished in a tie for fifth place.
The Anteaters will now advance to the NCAA Championship which will take place from May 22 to 25 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
After the nerves settled down, Brooks commended the team on its performance.
‘It was a complete team effort today,’ Brooks said. ‘I am really excited about how we played and we have had our goal all year [of playing in the NCAA Championship] and now we are going. I couldn’t be happier.’
UC Irvine finished the three-round tournament shooting a final score of 898 and finished 11 shots ahead of ninth place school San Jose State, which shot a 909.
Oklahoma State won the tournament, shooting an impressive 874 as a team.
A top eight finish was almost lost for the Anteaters. The team played earlier in the day and saw several teams make a charge for the top eight spots. It wasn’t until some of the other schools struggled on the back nine that a top eight finish was guaranteed for UCI.
‘We had to wait about two hours to make sure that we were good to go,’ Brooks said. ‘We were slipping in the standings but fortunately we had a cushion that helped us.’
Most of the players were eager to hear the news if they qualified.
‘We were looking at the laptop every few minutes and running up and down the stairs [to make sure we advanced],’ said freshman Patty Chawalitmetha.
Junior Kim Lorenzana and freshman Henna Cho had the top finishes for the Anteaters.
Lorenzana finished in 19th place with a three-round score of 224 (74-73-77) and Cho finished in 28th place with a score of 226 (77-77-672).
The 21 team tournament was held in Snow Canyon Country Club in St. George, Utah and took place from May 10 to 12.
The Anteaters had already played the course once before in March at the BYU Dixie Classic and Brooks felt it gave the team an advantage heading into the back nine of the course.
‘We knew what to expect out there. We weren’t blindsided by the last four holes, which are really tough, and we had a good idea of where we needed to place the ball to make our putts. Some of the teams that had never seen the course were a little bit overwhelmed,’ Brooks said.
UCI will now have just over one week to prepare for the NCAA Championships, the first trip the team has made to the finals since finishing in 18th place in 2005.
‘We know that we can compete with these higher ranked teams and we have proved it during the past three days,’ Brooks said. ‘I still don’t think that they have played as well as they can and I still think there are more low scores in them.’
Hopefully, the Anteaters have saved their best performance of the year for the season’s most important tournament.