- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Three strokes. That’s all that separates Maryland from making the 54-hole cut at the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
The Terrapins are first-timers here. Not just to the NCAA Championships but to Arizona itself. Five international players whose tournament schedule never took them west of Texas.
“I feel like we’re a little starstuck,” said head coach Diana Cantu, “even though they’re good enough.”
The Terps were first off on Friday morning, when conditions were calm and scoring was ripe in the desert, and they didn’t take advantage. On Saturday afternoon, they were nine strokes better in menacing wind that, at times, could knock a person off-balance. They’ll need more of that grit on Sunday when the field is cut to the top 15 teams. Maryland currently sits in 19th, three shots back of South Carolina and Michigan, who are tied for 14th at 24-over 600.
So much attention at the NCAA regional at Baton Rouge went to the 12 teams who never hit a shot to advance.
NCAA officials scrapped competition all three days due to weather, with committee representative Brad Hurlbut, the Director of Athletics at Fairleigh Dickinson, controversially declaring that the course was playable, but “not playable at a championship level.”
The top six seeds automatically advanced. Maryland was seeded fifth.
Public outcry was so loud that Barstool Sports stepped up to run the Let Them Play Classic earlier this week at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Arizona, a last-minute home run for the heartbroken.
But it wasn’t easy for her team either, Cantu noted.
“They wanted to be here in a different way,” said Cantu.
“They still had such a strong season that they deserve it, they just didn’t envision it that way. … They’re so into social media and it just blew up so much. I think that was hard for them a couple days.”
Cantu believes they’ve moved past it now.
The Maryland Terrapins women’s golf team poses for a photo at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, site of the 2021 NCAA Championships. Photo by Maryland
On Monday, top eight teams after 72 holes of stroke play will advance to match play at Grayhawk Golf Club. Mississippi, LSU and Oregon also advanced out of Baton Rouge and are currently 7, 8, and T-9, respectively in Scottsdale.
Maryland, ranked 20th by Golfweek/Sagarin, placed in the top three in all seven tournaments they played this spring. The team disbanded last March after the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t reunite until January.
Cantu worried about the time apart might impact them. She couldn’t be happier with how they came back firing. It helped too that in several events the Terps were grouped together because of COVID protocols. Cantu said those rounds were especially key in helping them to understand the importance of their attitudes, momentum and energy within the team.
Before Xiaolin Tian, now a graduate student, came to Maryland from China, the Terps were ranked well outside the top 100. That’s part of the pitch Cantu makes when selling her program to recruits: Come to a place that you can leave better than you found it.
“They’re setting such a high standard,” she said.
Maryland set an 18-hole record score of 278 this spring and senior Virunpat Olankitkunchai set a new individual tournament scoring mark of 11 under. She’s currently ranked 24th in the country.
“I don’t ever really stop and pause and realize what we’ve done,” said Cantu. “I’m a go, go, go what’s next person. What we’ve accomplished in year like this, I think it’s outstanding.”
And they’re not done yet.
Phil's Grill a hotspot for Mickelson fans (including ASU women's coach Missy Farr-Kaye) at NCAA Championship
NCAA Women's Championship: Stanford zooms up the leaderboard; about that new substitution rule