TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 10, 2014) – Mixed emotions surrounded the ETSU women’s golf team Saturday afternoon in the final round of the NCAA East Regional at the Southwood Golf Club, but the single most exhilarating moment of the tournament was enjoyed by junior Gabriella Wahl (Heidenheim, Germany).
While the No. 43-ranked Buccaneers posted a solid team score of 293 to wrap up the event in 11th place and finished just three strokes out of the all-important Top 8 – which is needed to advance to the NCAA Championships later this month in Tulsa, Okla. – Wahl will still be making the trip as an individual competitor thanks to what ultimately became the final and most dramatic moment of the tournament.
Having finished the day tied for seventh on the individual leaderboard after carding a team-best round of 3-under-par 69 on Saturday, Wahl was hoping her overall score of 4-under-par 212 (68-75-69) would be enough to garner one of the two individual berths that go to players who are not members of the Top 8 teams.
Instead, Baylor’s Hayley Davis secured the first of the two spots with a second-place finish at 6-under-par 210, leaving Wahl to face a playoff against Pepperdine’s Grace Na for the remaining invite. The two battled through three grueling holes before Wahl sank an eagle putt on the Par 5, No. 10 to win on the fourth hole of sudden death. Na, who entered the regional ranked 17th nationally, was forced to watch her season come to a close.
Meanwhile, Wahl joins former ETSU women’s golfer Nina Muehl (Vienna, Austria) as the only Buccaneers to earn berths into the NCAA Championships. Muehl competed in the 2010 NCAAs.
“I guess I just wanted to make it interesting,” Wahl said. “I had played with (Grace) today so I knew her game, and we both have very similar styles. I was a little lucky on the third playoff hole when we both tied with bogeys, and I thought to myself that we could be out here for a while because we are so much alike. But on the next hole I pulled off a nice swing on a 230-yard, downhill, downwind shot into the green. The putt was pretty standard and straight uphill, and I was so glad it went in.
“I’m just happy to be representing the Bucs at nationals. I wish my teammates were going with me, but we just came up a little short.”
The Bucs certainly came close to making the trip as well, posting a solid round and ultimately moving up to a tie for 11th after posting an overall score of 882 for the tournament. Unfortunately, it was not enough to catch eighth-place Campbell, which ended the day three strokes ahead of ETSU at 879.
“It was a solid, solid day,” said ETSU assistant coach Lauren Stratton, who is on the road with the team as head coach Stefanie Shelton is on maternity leave. “We gave ourselves a chance and moved up a little bit on the leaderboard, but it just wasn’t enough. I was really proud of the way the ladies fought all week. It was fun and a great experience for the team. This program is just getting better and better, and now we can all be excited for Gabby at nationals.”
No. 12-ranked Vanderbilt ran away with the regional team title, posting a team score of 840 and besting No. 5 South Carolina by 14 strokes. Individually, Vanderbilt’s Jenny Hahn finished at 9-under-par 207 to win the individual championship.
Other ETSU results included a tie for 34th by senior Sian Evans (Gillingham, England), who wrapped up her time at ETSU with a final round score of 1-over-par 73 on Saturday. Meanwhile, sophomore Vivienne Chin (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia) finished tied for 69th and carded a 2-over 74 in the final round.
Wahl will begin play at the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Okla., on May 20. Fans can watch live scoring by visiting Golfstat.com and clicking on the NCAA Championship link, while ETSUBucs.com will also provide a complete wrap up following each day’s play.
For more on ETSU women’s golf throughout the postseason, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s golf link.