FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Coach Karen Bahnsen has said all season long and emphasized it all week here at the Vanderbilt Legends Club and the NCAA Women's Golf Championships about how her Lady Tigers "were such fighters."
Struggling a bit at 26-over par and about to fall out of the top 10 for the first time all week, the Lady Tigers fight showed on the final three holes in Thursday's third round, as the team counted six birdies on the 7th, 8th and 9th holes to conclude the round and suddenly move to 20-over par and in fifth place entering Friday's final round of the 72-hole marathon.
The Lady Tigers on Friday took the Legends Club and its sun-baked double rolled greens to its knees with a 1-over par round of 289, its best of the tournament, as LSU finished a program-best third place for the second-consecutive year.
Once again, NCAA hardware is coming home to Baton Rouge with Bahnsen and the Lady Tigers.
LSU played the last 21 holes of the tournament in 5-under par and posted a number at 21-over par 1,173 (293-294-297-289) that was almost good enough to win the title. After finishing eight shots behind UCLA last year, the Tigers watched the final wave and top two, Alabama and Southern California, come in with Southern Cal on two occasions dropping back to 21-over to give LSU a potential second-place tie before a late birdie set up even more drama.
With USC in the clubhouse at plus-20 and its last player not counting, it was up to Alabama's Brooke Pancake to two putt to win the title by a shot. Pancake made a 5-footer for par to close out the Tide's first NCAA title at 19-over par 1,171. USC finished at 20-over 1,172, one shot ahead of LSU. The Tide title marks the second first-time winner in the past three years.
For the second-straight year, LSU beat Virginia for the third place trophy by two shots as the Cavaliers, who started the day one shot ahead of LSU, posted 292 and finished at 23-over 1,175.
LSU's 1,173 marks the lowest 72-hole score in school history, eight shots better than the third-place score of a season ago.
"They came in here and really wanted to get in a position to win it," said LSU Coach Bahnsen. "They did and went out and posted a great number (Friday) and it was just a couple short. We felt like we were good enough to compete and we showed we were. They did it as a total team. I'm very proud of them. Yea, they are a little disappointed but I'm so proud of them. They are competitors. That's why they are on my team. I want them to want that championship and that's what it's all about and that's what they came here for."
The repeat of the third-place finish came on the heels of four team wins, the most team wins since the 1985-86 season.
"The whole team played so hard," said Bahnsen. "These kids are so gutsy and they just fight. You saw how it started a little rough. They just kept balling back. There are a lot of kids out here that would have folded their tent, but our kids just keep fighting and fighting and I love it.
"They are just competitors," she said. "That's the way they were raised, that's the way they are. That's the spirit I liked when I recruited them and they are showing that. They have a big heart and they just don't give in. It's great."
Senior Tessa Teachman, in her final collegiate tournament, struggled late in the final round with three bogeys before finishing with a birdie to tie for third at 1-under 287 (69-74-70-74). Teachman was one of four golfers to post under-par numbers for the 72-hole event. Chirapat Jao-Javanil of Oklahoma was the individual winner at 6-under 282 (69-73-70-70), four shots ahead of Pancake of Alabama at 2-under 286 (68-70-75-73).
Teachman, who at one point early in the round was tied for the lead, finished tied for third with Laura Gonzalez of Purdue with 1-under 287 (67-76-74-70).
The Baton Rouge native, who will play in a U.S. Open qualifier later this week in Frisco, Texas, is the fourth LSU golfer finishing in the top three in the history of the NCAA Championships joining Austin Ernst, who won last year, and Katy Harris in 2001 and Kristi Coats in 1991 who both finished third.
"She handled the pressure so well," said Bahnsen. "Unbelievably well. A few more putts just didn't fall (Friday). (Assistant Coach) Alexis (Rather) walked every step of the way with her and she just didn't have a few putts go in and that's golf."
"It is bittersweet," said Teachman after the verdict was sealed and LSU had finished third. "It's is also my last year to give it a try. I know we can all think of shots we left here and there. It's a four-day tournament. It's how they declare the champion whoever plays best over four days. So it is bittersweet and frustrating but in retrospect you have to say third means not what we wanted but it's not bad when you look at the great competition that's out there.
"I had opportunities out there," said Teachman of her finish. "It was frustrating and a blessing to know I was that close to winning a tournament against such great competitors. I felt solid about my game the whole week."
In posting its 1-over par round, LSU really took advantage of the par-5 ninth on the front side and the more difficult back nine that had caused teams problems all week. All five players birdied the ninth, giving LSU a counting four total of 2-over after struggling early before a nine-birdie surge on holes 5-9. On the final nine holes, LSU would card a 1-under side, again getting three birdies and an Ernst eagle on the more difficult par-5 18th hole.
Ernst would shoot a 4-under 68 with that eagle to take some of the sting off a week when putts wouldn't drop until LSU started its rally on Thursday. After taking part in a U.S. Open qualifier, Ernst will head to Scotland at the end of next week to take part in the Curtis Cup competition, June 8-10.
The Seneca, S.C., sophomore had five birdies and the eagle on his final round with just three bogies.
LSU also recorded a 1-over 73 from Jacqueline Hedwall in a back night that included birdied at 14 and 17 to erase a double bogey on the 13th hole. Madelene Sagstrom and Lindsay Gahm both birdied 18 to shoot 2-over 74.
Ernst's 68 moved her final finish from 64th to a tie for 29th, Sagstrom tied for 51st, Gahm tied for 59th and Hedwall tied for 93th.
The scoring average for the final day was 74.44 and for the tournament 75.50.
NCAA Women's Championship
Vanderbilt Legends Club-Franklin, Tenn.
Final Team Results (Par 288-1152)
1. Alabama 286-285-306-294 - 1171 +19; 2. Southern Cal 297-288-294-293 -1172 +20; 3. LSU 293-294-297-289 - 1173 +21; 4. Virginia 288-294-301-292 - 1175 +23; 5. South Carolina 302-281-300-293 - 1176 +24; 6. Arizona State 292-291-304-292 - 1179 +27; 6. Oklahoma 294-299-295-291 -1179 +27; 8. UCLA 292-290-306-293 - 1181 +29; 9. Purdue 293-295-295-299 - 1182 +30; 10. North Carolina 290-292-303-299 - 1184 +32; 11. Vanderbilt 306-284-311-285 - 1186 +34; 12. Florida 302-293-297-298 - 1190 +38; 13. Texas 297-295-313-286 - 1191 +39; 13. NC State 299-294-303-293 - 1191 +39; 15. Duke 289-302-301-300 - 1192 +40; 16. Baylor 299-304-300-290 - 1193 +41; 16. Texas A&M 301-298-300-294 - 1193 +41; 18. Colorado 297-298-305-296 - 1196 +44; 19. Tennessee 300-307-307-286 - 1200 +48; 20. Michigan State 296-311-294-300 - 1201 +49; 21. Pepperdine 306-293-304-301 - 1204 +52; 22. Ohio State 303-307-305-296 - 1211 +59; 23. Arkansas 303-301-309-301 - 1214 +62; 24. Stanford 309-304-307-296 - 1216 +64.
Individual Top 10 (Par 72-288)
1. Chirapat Jao-javanil, Oklahoma 69-73-70-70 - 282 -6; 2. Brooke Pancake, Alabama, 68-70-75-73 - 286 -2; 3. Tessa Teachman, LSU, 69-74-70-74 - 287 -1; 3. Laura Gonzalez, Purdue, 67-76-74-70 - 287 -1; 5. Katie Burnett, South Carolina, 74-67-74-73 - 288 E: 6. Brittany Marchand, NC State 71-70-76-73 - 290 +2; 6. Lindy Duncan, Duke, 70-75-75-70 - 290 +2; 8. Portland Rosen, Virginia, 66-75-74-76 - 291 +3; 8. Kimberly Kaufman, Texas Tech, 70-73-76-72 - 291 +3; 8. Giulia Molinaro, Arizona State, 69-71-72-79 - 291 +3; 8. Katherine Perry, North Carolina, 75-70-73-73 - 291 +3.
T3. Tessa Teachman 69-74-70-74 - 287 -1
T29. Austin Ernst 78-75-74-68 - 295 +7
T51. Madelene Sagstrom 70-72-83-74 - 299 +11
T59. Lindsay Gahm 76-73-77-74 - 300 +12
T93. Jacqueline Hedwall 83-75-76-73 - 307 +19