BATON ROUGE – Mandeville senior LSU women’s golfer Elise Bradley talked Friday about leaving nothing to chance in Saturday’s final round of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional women’s golf event at the University Club.
Bradley had just fired her second straight round of even par and talked about playing aggressive on Saturday knowing that she could be one of the three golfers not on the six advancing teams to get to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon later in the month.
Bradley showed throughout the event the form that had her ranked in the top 50 in the country as a junior and helped her win the 2015 LSU Tiger Classic on the same course as she fired a brilliant round of 3-under 69 to finish in a tie for fourth and earn a chance to compete for the individual NCAA championship in her final tournament as a collegiate golfer.
It will be Bradley’s second straight trip to the nationals, going last year to Bradenton, Florida as part of the 2015 team that finished 20th.
Bradley came out strong on the back nine (her opening holes Saturday) for the second straight day on the par 5s after going birdie on 11 and eagle on 14 on Friday, she followed Saturday with birdie on both holes with a birdie on the par 3 13th as well to turn at 3-under 33. Bogeys on 1 and 4 (her back nine) slowed things, but another par 5 birdie on the sixth and then for the second straight day again, a birdie on nine gave her 69 in the final round.
“On my first nine holes (10-18), I played well. Once I got to three under, it was a little uncomfortable,” Bradley said afterwards. “I just didn’t know where I stood. I didn’t know if I needed to keep it there or if I needed to go lower. It was a little nerve-racking not knowing where I stood (as far as qualifying for nationals). The nerves kind of kicked in going into the back nine (holes 1-9). I kind of hit it a little bit of everywhere today. Today, I struck the ball the worst, but I scored the best … My short game definitely saved me.”
“I could not be happier for her, being a senior. She hasn’t played her best golf all year but I knew it was coming. I knew it was close,” said LSU Coach Karen Bahnsen. “I’m so excited that it happened this week for her on our home golf course and it gives her a chance to go to the national championship for her senior year.”
Bradley would finish tied for fourth at 3-under 213 (72-72-69), six shots out of the winning score but one of three, joining Linnea Strom of Arizona State and Leonie Harm of Houston as the three qualifiers not on the six advancing teams. Strom and Harm both posted 1-under 215 totals for the 54-hole event.
Bradley would play the par 5s in -7, second best of any of the 96 players in the field. She had 12 total birdies and was one of 11 players to have an eagle.
Bahnsen’s Lady Tigers also showed their mettle as a team on the final day of the event, posting their best round at 8-over 296 to finish at 41-over 905. Kathleen Gallagher had an impressive finish to a round of 75 with five birdies over the final eight holes, while Nadine Dreher and Sydney Cavin both posted 4-over 76s.
“I was proud of the girls today because they kept fighting,” Bahnsen commented. “A lot of teams, knowing we had struggled (Friday) and had taken ourselves out of it, they would have quit trying. We talked about it and that’s not who we are and that’s not what we are as a program. So the girls fought all the way until the very end, so I’m proud of them for that. That shows a lot of character and that goes a long way. The other girls that weren’t able to compete were out here supporting their teammates with all their heart. That goes a long way.”
Of this season and what she told her team, Bahnsen said: “I told them how much I enjoyed being their coach. I mean that, this is a great group of girls. We’re going to build on this. This is a great experience. Some girls got great experience this year that maybe they wouldn’t have before. Even Caroline (Nistrup – out much of year due to injury) and the other girls that were hurt got to see things from a different perspective. Sitting back and observing, they saw some things they don’t normally see as a player. It was a learning experience in a lot of ways. We’re just going to use all of this experience from this year to grow for next year.”
Meanwhile, the battle for the event winner and the sixth and qualifying spots turned rapidly in the last two waves. Florida would equal South Carolina’s record setting 11-under round of 277 and in the end would tie the Gamecocks for the team title at 7-under 857. Since being in the top six is the most important thing, the teams are co-champions with no playoff and for Florida it was their seventh win of the season. For South Carolina, it was their first win of the season.
Katelyn Dambaugh of South Carolina made it three straight rounds under par with a 9-under 207 (70-66-71) to win the regional individual title, but it was Karolina Vickova of Florida who broke her one-day single round post-renovation U-Club record of 7-under 65. Vickova was second at 6-under 210. Charlotte Thomas of Washington was third ahead of Bradley at 5-under 211.
“It felt good,” said Dambaugh. “I know I’ve been close this whole time, and to be able to help my team win this weekend when no one thought we could. That’s what means the most. All I care about is the fact that we’re going to nationals.”
In the battle for the final qualifying spot, it looked like Houston was going to be the one to come from outside the sixth spot after 36 holes to claim a ticket to Eugene as the Cougars had the round as deep as -7 at one point and a two-shot lead late over BYU. But a Cougar player took a quadruple bogey which involved water and an errant recovery behind the scorer’s tent on 18 and the lead disappeared. The two teams were tied with one BYU golfer on the course and Lea Garner, who finished T4 at -3, birdied the 18th hole after making three straight bogeys on 15-17 to give BYU the final qualifying spot.
“It was incredible. It was incredible,” said Carrie Roberts, Coach of BYU. “But, she’s done it her whole career.” “It was incredible. It was incredible, but she’s done it her whole career.
Joining Florida, South Carolina, Washington and BYU was Duke in fourth at 870 and Oregon at 882. BYU’s advancing score was 884 +20 (296 on Saturday), one shot ahead of Houston.
NCAA Baton Rouge Regional
The University Club, Baton Rouge
Final Team Results (Par 288-864)
Top 6 Teams Advance to NCAA Championships
T1 Florida 293-287-277; South Carolina 290-277-290 – 857 -7
3 Washington 286-289-288 – 863 -1
4 Duke 298-287-285 – 870 +6
5 Oregon 292-296-294 – 882 +18
6 BYU 298-290-286 – 884 +20
7 Houston 295-300-290 – 885 +21
8 Arizona State 296-298-297 – 891 +27
T9 East Carolina 301-301-302; Harvard 308-295-301 – 904 +40
11. LSU 299-310-296 – 905 +41
12 NC State 307-307-293 – 907 +43
13 Augusta 311-301-301 – 913 +49
14 North Florida 322-300-303 – 925 +61
15 Denver 315-304-307 – 926 +62
16 New Mexico 313-309-305 – 927 +63
17 Wichita State 312-308-315 – 935 +71
18 Fairleigh Dickinson 322-313-321 – 956 +92
Individual Top 10 (Par 72-216)
% -- advances as an individual to the NCAA Championships
1 Katelyn Dambaugh, South Carolina, 70-66-71 – 207 -9
2 Karolina Vickova, Florida, 74-71-65 – 210 -6
3 Charlotte Thomas, Washington 73-67-71 – 211 -5
T4 %Elise Bradley, LSU, 72-72-69; Lea Garner, BYU, 73-69-71; Sandy Choi, Duke, 73-69-71 – 213 -3
T7 %Leonie Harm, Houston, 69-77-69; %Linnea Strom, Arizona St, 71-73-71; Virginia Elena Carta, Duke, 76-72-67; Leona Maguire, Duke, 73-70-72; Maria Torres, Florida, 71-76-69 – 215 -1