Rachel Heck clinches match as Stanford beats UCLA to win 2024 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Rachel Heck started walking after her ball before it was close to the hole. It seemed as if she started reaching into the cup before the putt dropped.

It was clear early on. In her final collegiate start, Heck was leaving nothing in the table.

“Yeah, I don’t normally walk in putts,” Heck said. “But it was a good speed and I decided to walk it in. I felt that it was going to be good.”

The senior for Stanford was the anchor, and she delivered in a big way. Her victory against Kate Villegas secured the 2024 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship for the Cardinal, topping UCLA 3-2 in the match play final. Heck had a lag putt she hit to within a couple feet on the final hole, and Villegas couldn’t convert her birdie. The celebration ensued quickly after.

“That’s Rachel Heck for you,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “It’s like it was scripted that way.

The win was Stanford’s second title in three years and third overall and a fitting end Heck’s career as one of the best Stanford players of all-time.

Heck clinched the final point on the par-4 15th hole, winning her match 4 and 3. She closes her career with her second team title, and Heck also won the 2021 NCAA individual title as a freshman.

Walker mentioned how Heck, who won for the ninth time last week, wasn’t sure whether she would return this season. Injuries the past two years hampered her ability to play golf, but the talent remained. That showed Wednesday.

She walked in the birdie on the first hole. On the second, she had an iron into a par-5 and hit it to 15 feet and had a comfy birdie. On the third hole, Heck hit an iron into the par-3 green that never left the flag and ended 10 feet from the hole. Although she didn’t make the putt, it set the tone early that she wasn’t going to lose.

“This felt a little bit more enjoyable because you know, this, this really is it for me, this is the end of a chapter,” Heck said. “2022, obviously that was one of the best weeks of my life. I was looking at our senior I was like, ‘dang, she got to win her senior year, like what a perfect ending last chapter of her life.’ How cool would it be to win my senior year?”

It’s the third title for Stanford in the match-play era, the only school to win three titles since the switch to match play.

Kelly Xu earned the first point for Stanford with a 4-and-3 win against UCLA’s Meghan Royal. Then Megha Ganne added the second point, beating Natalie Vo 3 and 2.

Ganne was on the 16th green when Heck was on the 15th, and Ganne clinched her match after dropping a shot on the 15th. Fans rushed around the pond from the 16th green over to the 15th, where Heck was lining up her lag putt, and once again as she has done numerous times throughout her career, Heck closed the door and clinched the title.

“I felt really, really solid with my game,” Heck said. “Really good with my mental state more than anything at this point in the week. It just takes a lot of mental strength and perseverance, and I think everything I’ve been through the last year has helped with that a lot.”

Added Walker: “I’m just glad she got to have that moment. One of the best players to ever play college golf, so for her to be able to have this?”

No better way to go out.

Championship match results

No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 6 UCLA

  • Kelly Xu (Stanford) def. Meghan Royal (UCLA), 4 and 3

  • Megha Ganne (Stanford) def. Natalie Vo (UCLA), 3 and 2

  • Zoe Campos (UCLA) def. Sadie Englemann (Stanford), 4 and 3

  • Rachel Heck (Stanford) def. Kate Villegas (UCLA), 4 and 3

  • Caroline Canales (UCLA) def. Paula Martin Sampedro (Stanford) 2 up

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek