Tulsa excited for return to NCAA Championship, chance to add to McNamara’s legacy
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. –– The tradition-rich Tulsa women’s golf program, winners of four national championships, will be in the national title hunt when the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship begins this Friday.
“I told the girls that they need to cherish this moment because you don’t know when you’re going to get back. Some of the top teams in the country didn’t make it this year. We need to cherish it, but also we just don’t want to participate in the event. We want to go there and put on our best golf. I’m really excited about the week,” said Tulsa head coach Annie Young.
Tulsa is one of 30 teams competing at the par-72, 6,384-yard Grayhawk Golf Club, from May 19-24. The field will be trimmed to 15 teams after the first three days (May 19-21) of stroke play, while those 15 teams will compete on Monday (May 22) for eight spots advancing to match play competition on Tuesday (May 23).
Quarterfinal and semifinal play will commence on Tuesday with the championship match to be played on Wednesday (May 24).
Tulsa will be returning to the NCAA Championship Finals for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
Going into the championship, Young talked about her young team and the ability to get the most out of tough situations. The Hurricane goes into the NCAA event with two freshmen, two sophomores and one senior.
“Our girls are young, but they’re very tough,” said Young. “When things have gotten difficult for us, they gutted it up and finished and that’s what happened at regionals. We’re excited about going to Grayhawk. Our girls have worked hard for this opportunity.”
Tulsa is making its 28th national championship finals appearance and 20th NCAA Championship event. In its history, Tulsa’s four national titles came in 1980 and 1982 as the AIAW Champions, while the Hurricane also won the first-ever NCAA Championship in that same season of 1982 and claimed the 1988 NCAA crown.
The youthful Hurricane squad is coming off a fifth-place performance at the NCAA Westfield Regional with a 9-under total score of 855 at The Club of Chatham Hills. Freshman Grace Kilcrease led Tulsa at the regional with a fifth-place finish that saw the rookie turn in an 8-under par 208 total, following a final round 6-under par score.
Kilcrease enters the NCAA Championship with a team-best 71.9 stroke average, while placing among the top-10 in seven tournaments. As the lone senior, Lilly Thomas comes in right behind Kilcrease with a 72.5 stroke average and seven tournament finishes among the top-12.
A pair of sophomores, Sydney Seigel and Lovisa Gunnar, have been solid for the Hurricane with 73.1 stroke averages, respectively. Seigel, who will be playing in the championship event on a course 3.4 miles from her Scottsdale home, has had a strong spring season with four of seven finishes among the top-15. Gunnar has turned in two top eight performances over the span of Tulsa’s last three tournaments.
Another newcomer Jenni Roller helps give Tulsa a solid unit from 1 thru 5. The freshman from Tulsa’s Regent Prep High School has played her best collegiate golf this spring with two top-15 performances.
In discussing her team, Young shared some thoughts about the matriarch of Tulsa golf, the late Dale McNamara. “Dale got to see us win her namesake tournament right before she passed in October. I think she’d be so proud that we’ve come this far. It’s been 15 years from the last time the Tulsa program went to nationals, that’s a long time. Some of these girls were just three years old then,” said Young.
In a 26-year tenure at the Tulsa golf coach, McNamara led the Hurricane to 22 national tournaments, four championships and five runner-up finishes.
“Dale was such a huge part of what we’ve done here at Tulsa and she was always very supportive of our team. I know she was extremely proud of this group. She is for sure smiling down on us.”
The 30-team NCAA field is led by the top four seeds Stanford, Wake Forest, LSU and South Carolina. The remaining 26 teams are Mississippi State, Texas A&M, San Jose State, Florida State, Southern Cal, Texas, Baylor, Northwestern, Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Clemson, SMU, Duke, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Virginia, Georgia, Texas Tech, Michigan State, TCU, Tulsa, New Mexico, NC State, Oregon State and Augusta.
Fans can follow live stats each round at golfstat.com. Golf Channel coverage begins on Monday, May 22 and continues for match play May 23-24.