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Monday, October 18, 2021

UC Davis finishes 21st at stormy NCAA Championships

The clock has struck midnight and the Cinderella story has come to an end.

The fairytale season for the UC Davis women’s golf team concluded this weekend with the Aggies finishing 21st at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships on May 23, 24 and 25.

“We did such a great job this season,” said head coach Kathy DeYoung. “I am just so proud of each and every one of them for how well they competed. It was such a great experience.”

The road to becoming the 21st-best women’s golf team in the country was not an easy one for the Aggies – not only because of the level of competition, but also because of the weather.

After the first day of play, the skies were partly cloudy with the temperature at a nice 82 degrees. The Aggies took full advantage of the conditions, finishing the day in 13th place with a score of 298. UC Davis was led by Big West Player of the Year Chelsea Stelzmiller, who shot a team-best par-72, followed closely by fellow freshman Alice Kim, who chipped in with a one-over 73.

“It was incredible,” DeYoung said. “To be sitting in 13th place at the national tournament, it was just unreal for all of us. But on Saturday, we got the worst luck.”

The Aggies took to the greens at 1:10 p.m. Saturday, the second day of the tournament, and were nearly knocked over from steady winds of 35 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph.

“We got the later tee time, but the weather had gotten much worse,” DeYoung said. “It was horrible. We were delayed nearly two hours because of that wind.”

In only two holes played Saturday, the Aggies were 14 strokes over par after being only 10 over on the first day of play through all 18 holes. The remaining 16 holes would be played Sunday at 7 a.m., and their third round would be played right after.

It sounded like a good plan, except that the weather didn’t cooperate. The wind kept up, and the golfers had to deal with rain, hail and lightning.

“The officials said it was the worst weather they’ve ever had for a national tournament,” DeYoung said.

The Aggies finished up their second round, checking in at 319, which was 21 strokes worse than day one, dropping them to 22nd place.

Round three was played in the same weather and produced a similar score of 315. UC Davis was forced to play one down as freshman Katie Sisler was forced to withdraw due to illness.

There was a lone bright spot for the Aggies on Saturday, though, as junior Bryana Gregory carded a four-over 76 on her second round despite the unpleasant conditions.

In the fourth and final round, the weather subsided marginally and the Aggies were able to turn in a 302, allowing them to pass the University of Arizona for the 21st spot in the tournament.

Playing in her final collegiate tournament, senior Sydney Roughton put in a couple of birdies on par 5s to manage her best score of the weekend, a four-over 76.

Southern California came away with the country’s crown, with UCLA and Duke right on its heels at six and 10 strokes back, respectively.

With the final tournament in the books, all eyes will be on the retirement of coach Kathy DeYoung, who brought women’s golf to UC Davis four years ago and has been a coaching figurehead for the last 30 years at UC Davis.

“It’s bittersweet,” DeYoung said. “I love this group, and I’m going to miss seeing them on a daily basis. But there’s a lot of stuff that I’m excited to be able to go do. It’s going to be a little strange when I have to clear out my office…. After 30 years, there’s a lot of stuff in there.”

Taking over the reins for the Aggies will be Anne Walker. Walker spent her collegiate golfing days at California, and after graduating in 2002, served as an assistant coach for the program until being elevated to assistant head coach in 2007. Her tenure will begin July 1.

 

MATT MILLER can be reached at sports@californiaaggie.com.

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