EUGENE, Ore. – “You have to clap,” Shannon Aubert said.
Yes, yes you do.
Aubert, a Stanford sophomore, had dispatched Washington senior Charlotte Thomas and was standing on the side of Eugene Country Club’s 18th green cheering on teammate Casey Danielson, who was 1 down in a crucial match against Ying Luo. Danielson (5-0) hadn’t lost a match in the NCAA Championship in the last two years for Stanford. She was safely on the green in two and Luo was 45 yards short after her tee shot found some thick, gnarly rough.
Just when it looked like the match was destined for extra holes, Luo, a senior playing in her last-ever round for Washington, holed out for birdie from 45 yards to win the match.
That’s what prompted Aubert, in shock for several seconds, to finally deliver the line, “you have to clap.”
“When I was standing behind the shot, I was imagining it going in,” Luo said. “That was unbelievable.”
Luo’s dramatics didn’t win Washington its first NCAA Championship officially, although ultimately, it was the difference-maker.
It did give the Huskies their second point while Mariah Stackhouse and Sarah Rhee were deadlocked on the last hole and Julianne Alvarez was 2 up with three holes remaining against Lauren Kim.
Victory for Washington seemed like it was only a matter of time.
The Huskies won 3-2 but two ridiculously close matches down the stretch put the championship back up for grabs. The only certainty was that a Pac-12 team would take home hardware.
Both the Stackhouse-Rhee and Alvarez-Kim matches went into extra holes. Washington needed to win only one to claim the title. Stanford needed to win both.
Stanford’s fate was in the hands of its two seniors. Washington’s was in the hands of two freshmen.
Stackhouse won in 20 holes to improve her match-play record to 5-1 the last two years. Alvarez then defeated Kim on the 20th hole when Kim failed to get up and down from behind the green.
“When you are in this situation and it’s for your team, you’re not going to give up without a fight,” Alvarez said. “If you told me this is what I was in for [during her freshman year] I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur just completed her 33rd year at the helm of the Huskies. She’s had good teams over the years. She’s had great teams over the years. She’s never won an NCAA title.
“You just keep playing until somebody tells you to stop,” Mulflur said. “We knew today was going to be just like it was.
“This is a surreal moment for me.”
Stanford was looking to repeat as champions, although coach Anne Walker said all week that her team wasn’t “defending” anything, rather it simply was “chasing” another title.
Aubert asked Walker to be put in the first match and she delivered a 2-and-1 victory over Thomas. Danielson and Stackhouse, Stanford’s two match-play assassins, were in the second and third positions respectively. It was there to be had for the Cardinal.
But Luo’s shot changed everything in a split second.
“I don’t feel like anyone is walking away a loser today,” Walker said. “It was high level golf and all these kids should be really proud of themselves.
“There’s no reason for any tears at all. The golf was so high, they played wonderful. Washington earned this, we didn’t give them it.”
Said Mulflur: “Everybody did something great this week. I can’t think of more deserving champions than these guys.”