After dominating the field at the Big West Conference Tournament two weeks ago, the Aggies set their sights on an NCAA Tournament berth.
Unfortunately for UC Davis, it didn’t finish in the top eight spots and failed to advance past the NCAA West Regional this weekend at Stanford.
The Aggies shot 61-over for the tournament, placing them in 15th, 37 strokes behind first-place No. 3 ranked Arizona and 10 strokes behind No. 24 Texas A&M, the last team to qualify.
It was not the finish UC Davis had hoped for, but the Aggies left Stanford with their heads held high.
“Obviously we wanted to make it to nationals,” said coach Anne Walker, “but we were really well prepared and we gave it our best effort.”
The Aggies were led by junior Chelsea Stelzmiller who finished tied for 17th at 9-over, 8-strokes behind Calle Nelson of Virginia and Madeleine Ziegert of San Jose State, who tied for first.
Stelzmiller had seven birdies in the tournament and also had the best single round for UC Davis, shooting 2-over on the final day.
Big West Golfer of the Year Alice Kim tied for 30th with a score of 12-over. The Walnut, Calif. native led UC Davis with eight birdies and shot scores of 4-over in each of her three rounds.
Senior Kim Johnson ended her career as an Aggie in a tie for 66th at 19-over. She shot 3-over in the last round of the tournament.
UC Davis’ two freshmen Demi Runas and Amy Simanton both struggled at Stanford. The duo each posted their lowest finishes of the season and ended in the bottom half of a field that featured 121 individuals.
Runas finished tied for 85th with a score of 23-over. She fired just two birdies for the tournament, both in her final round.
Simanton wound up one stroke behind Runas at 24-over. She tied for 91st.
Despite the low finishes for the freshmen, coach Anne Walker knows that this will be a learning experience for the younger members of the team.
“It’s going to be great for them,” Walker said. “They didn’t have any experience playing on this stage. Learning to deal with the emotions of a championship-level tournament will help them a lot in the future.”
She also knows that her team needs to avoid letting its inability to reach nationals affect confidence as it moves forward.
“Of course we need to think about it,” Walker said, “but it’s been a great year and we need to stay focused on all the good things that happened. One tournament doesn’t define our season.”
With a little hard work in the off-season, the Aggies could make another push for a national title next year. Going into next season, UC Davis will retain many of its key players, all of whom gained a lot of valuable experience.
“We grew as individuals and as a team this year,” Walker said. “Our players need to keep competing in national events through the summer and getting exposure against some of the best competition. If we can do that then I think we’ll be even better next year.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com.