Julianne Alvarez had a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole to give Washington its first NCAA golf title, a big moment for a freshman.
It felt even bigger when she missed, sending another match against Stanford to extra holes.
“She walked off and said, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said. “I said, ‘Sorry?' You have to play another hole. Coming back from where you’re feeling bad to come through like this is just incredible.”
Twice out of position and facing increasing pressure, Alvarez atoned for her three-putt bogey with two tough par saves. The second one gave the 19-year-old from New Zealand a victory in 20 holes over Lauren Kim and delivered the Huskies the national title.
Washington won 3-2 over Stanford, a final so close that it came down to two matches that went to overtime.
Mariah Stackhouse, who last year won the decisive match in extra holes to give Stanford the title, blew a 3-up with four holes to play before outlasting Rhee.
That left the NCAA title in the hands of Alvarez or Kim.
“I don’t think I could have scripted it any better,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez was in a bunker on the first extra hole and couldn’t get to the green because of the steep lip. From about 50 yards short of the green, her third shot with a wedge stopped a few feet behind the hole for a par to keep it going.
On the second extra hole, Alvarez came up short of the green and hit a pitch from about 70 feet and stopped inches behind the hole for a conceded par. Kim, who had given Stanford hope by rallying from 3 down with three to play, went over the green with a hybrid and chipped to 12 feet. Her par putt to extend the match missed on the right side, and the celebration was on.
“So proud,” said Mulflur, in her 33rd year as Washington’s coach. “They fought and battled, and we knew today was going to be just like it was.”
It would have been hard to predict this.
The final hour at Eugene Country Club was filled with two unlikely comebacks, a holed wedge from the fairway to win a match on the final hole, and momentum swings so wild that at times they changed from shot-to-shot.
The two matches that didn’t reach the 18th hole were split. Shannon Aubert of Stanford won in 17 holes over Charlotte Thomas, and Washington freshman Wenyung Keh had the shortest match of the final round, 4 and 3, over Sierra Kersten.
Everything else was up for grabs.
Ying Luo had a 20-foot birdie putt to go 2 up over Casey Danielson of Stanford, only to run it 8 feet by and three-putt for the match to go all square. Luo nearly had another three-putt on the next hole, but she made a 7-footer for par to keep it tied, and then made a 5-foot birdie on the par-5 17th to go 1 up.
Luo was in a fairway bunker and couldn’t reach the green on the 18th, coming up 45 yards short. Danielson had a 20-foot birdie that she never had to putt. Luo’s wedge carried a ridge and rolled into the cup for birdie and a 1-up victory to put Washington on the cusp of a title.
Luo, a senior from China, said she was thinking about Rhee’s great comeback Tuesday when she holed a bunker shot to win her match.
“I was imaging it going in,” she said.
Rhee almost made another great comeback, winning three straight holes to square the match against Stackhouse, and holing a 6-footer for par on the last hole to send the match for overtime. But she couldn’t save par on the second extra hole, and Stackhouse won.
Kim also was impressive. With no room for error, she birdied the tough par-3 16th and the par-5 17th to stay in the match, and she saved par from left of the green to force Alvarez to beat her. Alvarez was 35 feet away, and her first putt was woefully short. She missed the next one, and found redemption two holes later.
Kim sobbed on the shoulder of Stackhouse after missing her par putt.
“The golf shots hit today, it was Washington’s week,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “Look at what they did to UCLA yesterday, and what they did to us today. It was high-level golf. There’s no reason for any tears. Washington earned this. We didn’t give it to them.”