Stanford leads by 20 at NCAA Championship with freshman Rachel Heck in position for a rare postseason sweep

·3 min read

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – After Stanford won its regional by 30 shots, head coach Anne Walker did everything she could to help her team hit the reset button. Dominant victories can take an emotional toll. She encouraged her players to put their clubs away for several days. Take time to decompress.

Stanford currently holds a 20-stroke lead over Duke at the NCAA Championship at Grayhawk heading into the final round of stroke play. Just like regionals, Rachel Heck and Angelina Ye sit 1-2 in the individual race. Brooke Seay added a 69 and is tied for fifth.

Ye bogeyed her first five holes this week but is now 5 under for the championship, five back from Heck. She carded a career-best 7-under 65 on Sunday, tying Andrea Lee for lowest round in NCAA Championship history for the program.

Angelina Ye’s 65 tied Andrea Lee’s school record for lowest round at NCAAs. (Stanford/Darren Reese)

The top eight teams advance to match play after Monday’s final round. Stanford won the 2015 NCAA Championship at The Concession, the first year the women switched formats to match play. They’ve advanced to the final eight every year since.

Heck is the top-ranked player in the country having won five tournaments this semester, including the Pac-12 Championship and regionals. What will it be like having a teammate chase her tomorrow?

“I’ll be playing behind her,” said Heck. “I’m hoping I get to watch her make putts and wave back at her, because that’s what we do. We’re teammates.”

A similar situation played out at regionals on Stanford’s home course. There was a backup on the 18th tee in the final round and Ye and Heck were tied.

Walker watched Heck, a freshman who wants to serve in the Air Force Reserve after she graduates, give Ye a fist bump and say ‘Let’s go birdie this one.’ ”

“We were tied at regionals and I ended up coming out on top,” said Heck. (Angelina) gave me a huge hug and was super pumped for me. If she goes and fires another 7 under I’ll be stoked for her.”

Because Stanford didn’t get to compete in the fall due to COVID-19 and, for a while even the spring looked iffy, Heck says there’s a deep level of gratitude on the team. She’s better at staying patient in the moment now too. Heck credits ROTC with helping give her a greater perspective.

Walker said she’s most impressed with Heck’s demeanor on the course this week, her composure. She walked off the par-5 18th with a smile on Sunday despite a watery bogey.

“Getting mad isn’t going to help anything,” Heck said matter-of-factly.

Back on Friday in the first round, Walker approached Ye after her fifth bogey, armed with a pep talk: ‘Here’s the deal, you’re going to make five birdies in the next 72 holes.

Ye’s response: “I know.”

No pep talk necessary. Ye knew this was coming.