If this were any other year, we’d soon be crowning an NCAA Division I women’s golf champion.
This year, on this very Wednesday, it was supposed to be at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.
So, instead of just letting a shortened season disappear into the history books, our college golf experts at Golf Channel teamed up with other top college-golf voices to ask this burning question: What if?
In this simulation, our panel – comprised of Golf Channel’s Steve Burkowski and Brentley Romine, Golfweek’s Lance Ringler and Julie Williams, Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington, Andy Johnson and Will Knights from The Fried Egg and No Laying Up’s Big Randy – crunched the numbers and traded opinions for multiple weeks to come up with a consensus champion.
Using the top 24 teams in Golfstat as a starting point, each expert came up with their top 8 teams and top 5 individual finishers. Using this data, Golf Channel researcher Kevin Casey, our human super computer, averaged out the picks to come up with final team and individual leaderboards, as well as the quarterfinal matchups.
Our panel then combed through the matches, one by one, from the quarterfinals to the semifinals to the championship match. Finally, only one team remained.
On the women’s side, that team was Wake Forest, which took down USC in a close final match to avenge its national runner-up finish from a year ago.
Here’s a closer look at the final simulated results:
The Demon Deacons, the top-ranked team in Golfstat who finished their actual season with a wire-to-wire victory at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, edged USC for the top seed in match play by three shots. UCLA, with three freshmen in the lineup, snuck into match play by a shot over Ole Miss, which qualified for its first NCAA Championship in school history just two seasons ago. Somewhat surprisingly, Stanford, a staple in match play and the 2015 NCAA champions, failed to make the final eight, as did Auburn, which made a surprise run to the semifinals a year ago.
- 1. Wake Forest (+5)
- 2. USC (+8)
- 3. Arizona State (+10)
- 4. Duke (+18)
- 5. Texas (+22)
- 6. Kent State (+24)
- 7. Arizona (+28)
- 8. UCLA (+31)
- 9. Ole Miss (+32)
- 10. Stanford (+34)
- 11. Auburn (+36)
- 12. Florida (+38)
- 13. LSU (+39)
- 14. South Carolina (+40)
- 15. Oregon (+45)
Team missing 54-hole cut
- 16. Michigan State
- 17. Oklahoma State
- 18. Alabama
- 19. Arkansas
- 20. Baylor
- 21. Mississippi State
- 22. Florida State
- 23. Vanderbilt
- 24. Texas Tech
Wake swept the stroke-play titles, with junior Emilia Migliaccio winning the individual crown by three shots over freshman sensation Vivian Hou of Arizona. Annika Award winner Natalie Srinivasan rounded out the podium while two Arizona State players, Linn Grant and Olivia Mehaffey, finished in the top 10 in front of the home crowd.
- 1. Emilia Migliaccio, Jr., Wake Forest (-9)
- 2. Vivian Hou, Fr., Arizona (-6)
- 3. Natalie Srinivasan, Sr., Furman (-5)
- 4. Linn Grant, Fr., Arizona State (-3)
- 5. Ana Belac, Sr., Duke (-2)
- 6. Emma Spitz, Fr., UCLA (-1)
- 7. Ingrid Lindblad, Fr., LSU (+1)
- 8. Olivia Mehaffey, Sr., Arizona State (+3)
- 9. Kaitlyn Papp, Jr., Texas (+4)
- 10. Angelina Ye, Fr., Stanford (+5)
Typically, there is always at least one upset in the quarterfinal round at NCAAs. In our simulation, though, it was all chalk, with the top four seeds all advancing. UCLA did give Wake a run while Texas nearly advanced in a hard-fought battle with defending national champion Duke.
No. 1 Wake Forest def. No. 8 UCLA, 3-2
- Siyun Liu, Wake, def. Mariel Galdiano, 4 and 3
- Emilia Migliaccio, Wake, def. Emma Spitz, 19 holes
- Emilie Paltrinieri, UCLA, def. Rachel Kuehn, 1 up
- Annabel Wilson, UCLA, def. Vanessa Knecht, 3 and 1
- Lauren Walsh, Wake, def. Clare Legaspi, 5 and 4
No. 2 USC def. No. 7 Arizona, 4-1
- Amelia Garvey, USC, def. Yusang Hou, 1 up
- Vivian Hou, Arizona, def. Gabriela Ruffels, 2 and 1
- Malia Nam, USC, def. Therese Warner, 5 and 4
- Alyaa Abdulghany, USC, def. Hollie Muse, 3 and 1
- Allisen Corpuz, USC, def. Ya Chun Chang, 4 and 3
No. 3 Arizona State def. No. 6 Kent State, 3-2
- Olivia Mehaffey, Arizona State, def. Karoline Stormo, 1 up
- Linn Grant, Arizona State, def. Pimnipa Panthong, 2 and 1
- Raquel Olmos, Arizona State, def. Caley McGinty, 20 holes
- Chloe Salort, Kent State, def. Alexandra Forsterling, 1 up
- Kory Nielsen, Kent State, def. Alessandra Fanali, 2 and 1
No. 4 Duke def. No. 5 Texas, 3-2
- Jaravee Boonchant, Duke, def. Hailee Cooper, 3 and 2
- Agathe Laisne, Texas, def. Gina Kim, 2 and 1
- Sophie Guo, Texas, def. Erica Shepherd, 21 holes
- Ana Belac, Duke, def. Kaitlyn Papp, 3 and 2
- Miranda Wang, Duke, def. Emilee Hoffman, 19 holes
After escaping UCLA in the quarterfinals, Wake Forest finds its groove and gets its revenge on Duke in a rematch of last year’s final. Rachel Kuehn’s victory over Jaravee Boonchant gives Wake its deciding point in a 4-1 win. Meanwhile, USC sends the home team home by winning the final three matches.
No. 1 Wake Forest def. No. 4 Duke, 4-1
- Ana Belac, Duke, def. Siyun Liu, 4 and 3
- Emilia Migliaccio, Wake, def. Erica Shepherd, 2 and 1
- Vanessa Knecht, Wake, def. Gina Kim, 1 up
- Rachel Kuehn, Wake, def. Jaravee Boonchant, 19 holes
- Lauren Walsh, Wake, def. Miranda Wang, 1 up
No. 2 USC def. No. 3 Arizona State, 3-2
- Olivia Mehaffey, Arizona State, def. Amelia Garvey, 1 up
- Linn Grant, Arizona State, def. Gabriela Ruffels, 3 and 1
- Malia Nam, USC, def. Raquel Olmos, 5 and 4
- Alyaa Abdulghany, USC, def. Alexandra Forsterling, 3 and 2
- Allisen Corpuz, USC, def. Alessandra Fanali, 22 holes
While USC, which spent most of last season at No. 1, gave Wake all it could handle, the Demon Deacons came away with their first NCAA title in program history. While Amelia Garvey made quick work of Vanessa Knecht and U.S. Women’s Amateur champ Gabi Ruffels got her first match win of the week, Emilia Migliaccio and Rachel Kuehn took down their opponents to set the stage for Lauren Walsh, who earned the clinching point in the East Lake Cup last fall. She did so here, too, beating Alyaa Abdulghany to give Wake the title.
No. 1 Wake Forest def. No. 2 USC, 3-2
- Amelia Garvey, USC, def. Vanessa Knecht, 6 and 4
- Gabriela Ruffels, USC, def. Siyun Liu, 1 up
- Emilia Migliaccio, Wake, def. Malia Nam, 1 up
- Rachel Kuehn, Wake, def. Allisen Corpuz, 3 and 2
- Lauren Walsh, Wake, def. Alyaa Abdulghany, 2 up