The Aggies knew they were in good shape to make a run at the Big West Conference title.
UC Davis had momentum on its side. It had posted three top-five finishes in its past five tournaments, and had two players – Chelsea Stelzmiller and Alice Kim – comfortably seated on the Big West’s first team.
All they needed was a little luck and a lot of great swings to propel them to that top spot at the conference tournament in San Luis Obispo on Monday and Tuesday.
“We knew we had to play well in order to win it,” said coach Anne Walker. “We wanted to win so bad.“
When it was all said and done, the UC Davis women’s golf team came up a stroke shy of the coveted first-place slot in the tourney.
“Man, it’s tough,” Walker said. “To come that close and come up short – it’s just really hard.“
The Aggies made a final-round push behind the play of junior Lauren Dobashi and senior Bryana Gregory, who checked in with scores of 77 and 76, respectively.
“They both stepped up big time and fired off two really good rounds,” Walker said. “They took over and gave us a chance. That was huge.“
Despite the duo’s effort, the Aggies found themselves just out of reach of No. 49 Long Beach State.
Led by Coach of the Year Sue Ewart, the 49ers blasted off with a final score of 929 over the three rounds en route to their first conference championship in program history.
The 49er win also secured an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships, which begins regional play in May.
As for the Aggies, their potential NCAA bid remains uncertain.
“Monday is selection day and right now we are on the bubble,” Walker said. “It’s going to be really hard to get in because there’s a lot of teams sitting right there, too. I don’t really know. It could go either way.“
Even though the team’s chances are up in the air, Stelzmiller and Kim are “in good shape” to qualify as individuals, Walker said.
Stelzmiller finished tournament play tied for second overall with her score of 12-over 228 (77-76-75) on the par-72, 6,168-yard San Luis Obispo Country Club golf course.
It was the Placerville, Calif. native’s eighth top-10 finish of the season, upping her total from a 2008 campaign in which she was named Big West Player of the Year.
Kim finished only one stroke behind Stelzmiller with a 13-over 229, which was good for sixth in the tournament. Kim paced the Aggies this year with her 73.6 average through 12 tournaments.
MATT J. MILLER can be reached at email@example.com.