TULSA – Playing on the biggest stage of college women’s golf, Kansas concluded its historic season with a 24th-place finish at the NCAA Championship at the Tulsa Country Club Friday.
Kansas shot a 292 (+12) Friday, its lowest round of the four-day championship which also tied for its fourth-lowest round of the season. Overall, KU finished the four-day event at 1,201 (+81), 15 shots behind Iowa State (+66) who finished 23rd in the 24-team field.
“We made some birdies (today),” Kansas 10th-year head coach Erin O’Neil said. “Birdies offset the bogeys or a double (bogey) if we had that. We definitely put ourselves in a better position to shoot lower.”
In Kansas’ only other NCAA Championship appearance, the Jayhawks shot a 1,270 and placed 14th out of 17 teams in 1990.
“It has been a great learning experience,” O’Neil said of taking her first KU team to the NCAA Championship. “It was a wonderful opportunity. We got to play against some of the best players in the country on a great golf course. I know we learned a lot and we’ll take what we learned and put it to work next year. Hopefully we will make it a normal thing for us and not such a novelty.”
Three Jayhawks had their best rounds of the 2014 NCAA Championship on Friday. Sophomore Yupaporn “Mook” Kawinpakorn paced the team with an even-par 70, which included four birdies. Freshman Pornvipa “Faii” Sakdee shot a 72 (+2) highlighted by two birdies. Senior Thanuttra “Fhong” Boonraksasat carded a 73 (+3) in her final round as a KU golfer.
“Basically everything went well today,” Mook said. “I got my putting going today and my short game. My approach shot was quite good today.”
Other KU scores included a 76 (+6) by junior Minami Levonowich and an 85 (+15) by senior Meghan Potee. Mook ended as KU’s highest finisher, tying for 89th in the 126-golfer field with a four-round score of 299 (+18), while Fhong was next tying 94th with a 300 (+20).
Duke won the team title shooting a 274 (-6) on Friday with a four-round 1,130 (+10). The Blue Devils held off USC which shot a -10 (270) in its final round and finished two strokes behind Duke at 1,132 (+12). The title was sixth for Duke and its first since 2007.
USC’s Doris Chen shot a 3-under 67 on Friday and took medalist honors with a four-round 274 (-6). Duke’s Celine Boutier finished two shots behind Chen at 4-under with a 276 which included a 69 (-1) in her last round.
KU qualified for the NCAA Championship by tying for fifth at the 24-team NCAA Central Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma, May 8-10, defeating six teams ranked ahead of the Jayhawks. This year was Kansas’ second-ever NCAA Championship appearance with the first being in 1990 when KU won the Big Eight Championship and was an automatic qualifier to the NCAA event. NCAA Regional selections began in 1993 making 2014 the first time KU was chosen as an at-large participant in the 72-team field.
“It was an honor to be here,” Mook said about competing in her first NCAA Championship. “It was a great experience to be here with our team. I’ve learned a lot the past few days. We need to work on the things that went wrong and didn’t go well. We need to remember that and fix it and be strong.”
Excluding the NCAA Championship, Kansas finished in the top-10 of every tournament it competed in in 2013-14, including 10 top-5 finishes under O’Neil. Kansas won two events – the Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational in September and the Palmetto Intercollegiate in October. KU tied for fourth at the 2014 Big 12 Championship which was its highest finish in a conference tournament since it placed third in the 1992 Big Eight event.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” the fifth-year senior Fhong said summing up her KU career. “I’m so proud of the team and so proud of what we accomplished throughout the year. We’ve been working hard for the past five years when I got here (to Kansas) and now we are here. I can’t even explain it.”