After a long four days of play, the UC Davis women’s golf team posted its best finish ever at the Division I NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga. With this being their third trip to the biggest event in collegiate golf, the ladies finished 16th out of 24 in the tournament, which included some of the best women’s college golf teams in the nation.
The competition began May 21, with the Aggies finishing day one tied with University of Texas at 15th, thanks to outstanding performances all around.
Freshmen Betty Chen and Andrea Wong each rose to the occasion in their national finals debuts, with Chen hitting a one-over 73 tying for 33rd individually and Wong ending with a 77, putting her tied for 89th.
Both of the Aggies’ seniors shot well on the first day as well, with Demi Runas posting a 74 putting her in 46th, and Amy Simanton firing a solid three-over 75 placing her tied for 64th.
Rolling into day two, the team did not shoot as well as head coach Anna Temple would have wished, falling to 17th, tied with University of Oregon.
“Today was an opportunity for us to move up and we didn’t quite take advantage of that,” Temple said.
However, with two more days of golf left, the Aggies still had plenty of time to improve upon any mistakes made.
Continued success out on the course from Runas and Chen kept the team in contention, with Chen shooting a 72 on day three and Runas going one-under 71. Confidence levels were rising coming into the last day of play for the team as they finished tied for 13th on May 23.
“We played well today,” Temple said. “We have a great opportunity to have everyone play well in the final round and leave this championship with a good result.”
Although they dropped from 13th to 16th in their last round, the girls each contributed to the best finish in the team’s history. Sophomore Beverly Vatananugulkit stepped up her game, hitting four-over 76 and giving the team a solid backing for Friday’s finale.
Despite not winning the tournament, the athletes can be proud of another highly successful season, establishing UC Davis women’s golf among the best in the nation. The team has qualified for three fairly recent NCAA national tournaments, including this year’s tournament.
In the team’s past two appearances at the championships they placed 21st in 2008 and 20th in 2011. Finishing 16th is a new high for the athletes and sets the Aggies up for continued success coming into next year.
The key throughout this season has been standout performances from every player on the roster. From freshman to senior, everyone played solid golf. As a result, the Aggies have picked up quite a few awards this season.
Despite all the success the Aggies have had this year, they are looking forward to next year and hoping to improve their national standings once again. However, the team will have some gaps to fill in 2014, as they are losing two outstanding seniors in Runas and Simanton.
Simanton began her career at UC Davis on a high note, as she was named Big West Freshman of the Year in 2010. Her success continued as she tied for 15th at the 2011 NCAA Finals and finished second twice at the Big West Championships. Simanton was a member of the All-Big West first-team all four years as an Aggie. In her last tournament she finished tied for 102nd, playing strong all week in Georgia.
Although Runas was not able to end her collegiate career with a number one team finish, she still received great news while in Athens. On May 22, it was announced that she was the recipient of the Dr. Hubert Heitman Award as the outstanding female-student athlete of the 2012-13 season, the highest honor awarded to UC Davis student-athletes.
Runas was highly deserving of this top honor, after playing an amazing four seasons with the Aggies. Over the span of her college career, she was chosen Big West Golfer of the Year three times and named to All-Conference first-team all four years. She ends her time at UC Davis ranked 18th in the nation, with two first place tournament finishes her junior year.
Although UC Davis is losing two outstanding seniors, the Aggies still have six of eight returners. As the team finishes higher and higher each season in the finals, the numbers are in their favor to continue to improve upon those rankings in the seasons to come.
SLOAN BOETTCHER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.