Alabama wins women's NCAA title, edging Southern California by one

Alabama golf team at women's NCAA finals
University of Alabama
The Crimson Tide's first women's golf title is the third national championship title this year for Alabama, which also won in football and women's gymnastics.
By
Teresa Walker
Associated Press

Series: Other Tour

Published: Friday, May 25, 2012 | 11:19 p.m.

FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Alabama won its first women's golf title Friday, holding off two-time champ Southern California by a stroke on the 72nd hole in the NCAA Division I championship.

Oklahoma's Chirapat Jao-Javanil won the individual title by four strokes, closing with a 2-under 70 to finish at 6-under 282.

WOMEN'S FINALS

For complete coverage of the NCAA Division I Women's Finals, go to NCAA.com.

The Crimson Tide gave Coach Mic Potter his first national title and first for a program in its seventh trip to the national tournament when senior Brooke Pancake rolled in a 4-footer for par on No. 18. It's the third national title this year for Alabama, which also won in football and women's gymnastics, and sixth for the Southeastern Conference.

"Coach (Nick) Saban practices at our practice facility all the time," Potter said of the coach who has two national football titles at Alabama. "I feel more on his level."

Alabama finished at 6-over 294 in the fourth round for a 19-over 1,171 total.

Southern Cal trailed Alabama by 14 strokes after 36 holes and by two going into the final round. The national champs in 2003 and 2008 tied the Crimson Tide five times atop the leaderboard and led by five strokes before losing the lead on the back nine. The Trojans shot 293 for a 1,172 total.

"It's never fun to lose by a shot," Southern Cal Coach Andrea Gaston said. "And it really wasn't in our hands this time."

They were followed by LSU (289-1,173) and Virginia (292-1,175), which lost a six-stroke lead in the first round when Elizabeth Brightwell signed an incorrect scorecard.

Jao-Javanil, ranked 59th by GolfStat and 41st by Golfweek, won the first women's individual title for Oklahoma. She got to sit around and watch the scoreboard to see if her score would hold up after not looking at a leaderboard throughout her round.

"I think it was more pressure than actually playing out there because you're looking at the phone and Brooke Pancake's like an awesome player," Jao-Javanil said. "You never know if she could birdie her way in."

The sophomore from Thailand had won this year at the Central District Invitational and the Golf Week Conference Challenge and finished second at the Big 12 Championship as she helped lead Oklahoma to its first league title since 2000. She finished fifth at the West Regional.

She started the final round tied with Giulia Molinaro of Arizona State and bogeyed No. 18, her ninth hole, after hitting into the water to fall into a three-way tie. But Jao-Javanil birdied No. 1 for a one-stroke lead over LSU's Tessa Teachman, while Molinaro bogeyed to fall to 2 under. Jao-Javanil wrapped up the title with a flourish on another tap-in birdie on the par-5 ninth and soon started getting tweets of congratulations from Oklahoma's football players.

"It's really special," Jao-Javanil said. "I mean because I feel like over here in the U.S. football is a really big sport. To get recognition from them ... we're like the women's golf team."

Pancake tried to chase down Jao-Javanil and had plenty of holes to do it a pond away from the par-3 course where she first learned to play. But the Alabama senior from Chattanooga bogeyed No. 16 to fall four strokes back with two to play. Pancake shot 73-286. She was followed by Laura Gonzalez of Purdue (70) and LSU's Tessa Teachman (74) at 287.

That left Pancake to help the Tide win the team title.

"I would take the team championship over an individual one every day," said Pancake, who will be heading to Scotland soon for the Curtis Cup. "It means the world, especially since I got to have a lot of my family and friends and such support. My grandfather got to be here. Yeah, it is amazing to have ended my college career like this."

Southern Cal had gone up by five strokes reaching 13 over with Alabama at 18 over. The Trojans had three bogeys after a couple shots bounced off the hard green into the water on the par-3 No. 16 and finished with eight bogeys and one double bogey in the final five holes combined to just come up short after Sophia Popov and Inah Park birdied No. 18.

"I felt like we got a couple bad breaks," Gaston said. "I don't think we made some bad shots."

Alabama sophomore Hannah Collier looked at a leaderboard on No. 16 and saw the Tide trailed by five.

"What's left to lose? Might as well swing freely, which Mic always tells me to do," Collier said.

She birdied Nos. 17 and 18 in helping swing the lead back.

Alabama junior Jennifer Kirby set up the dramatic finish with a double bogey on the final hole. Chipping from behind the green, her ball went only a few feet, and her next chip went about 6 feet past the hole before she two-putted. Inah Park then rolled in a 5-footer for birdie, pulling Southern Cal within a stroke of Alabama at 20 over.

Pancake laid up on the par-5 18th with her third shot landing in the trees just left of the fairway. Her shot onto the green wound up about 60 feet from the hole, a shot that would have been perfect for the third-round pin. Pancake hit the right side of the cup, and the ball looked like it might go in before going 4 feet past for par. She holed out the par putt to start Alabama's latest celebration.