Georgia women golfers come up short against No. 1 Stanford

Georgia's Caterina Don helped her teammates nearly pull off an upset against top-ranked Stanford. (Photo by Steven Colquitt/UGA Athletics)

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Georgia's Caterina Don helped her teammates nearly pull off an upset against top-ranked Stanford. (Photo by Steven Colquitt/UGA Athletics)

The University of Georgia women’s golf team nearly pulled the upset of the season Tuesday.

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 24, pushed No. 1 Stanford to the limit before losing 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women’s Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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“I mean, it’s the No. 1 team in the country,” Georgia coach Josh Brewer said. “We had a chance all the way down to the end game. We’re disappointed. We feel like we had a chance to win, but (at the) same time, to be here, to get into match play for the first time, it’s just another steppingstone for the program. We’ve just got to build on it and take a bunch of positives away from the week.”

Georgia advanced to match play as the No. 8 seed after stroke play and had to face the top-ranked Cardinal, led by NCAA individual champion Rachel Heck and Rose Zhang, winner of the ANNIKA Award given to the best college player in the nation.

But Georgia’s Candice Mahe beat Zhang 1 up, and Heck had to hold off Georgia’s Jenny Bae 2 and 1. Bae made a birdie on the 17th hole to keep the match alive. Georgia’s Caterina Don beat Sadie Englemann 3 and 1, leaving the Bulldogs needing one more point. Mahe and Don both have international experience, Bae was a finalist for the Curtis Cup team and all three have competed in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

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The Bulldogs were unable to win the other two matches. Stanford’s Aline Krauter beat freshman LoraLie Cowart 2 and 1, who fought back from being 3 down through 15, and Stanford’s Brooke Seay defeated Jo Hua Hung 3 and 2.

“We knew we had depth and it’s nice to see them all play well and put rounds on the boards for us,” he said. “To get to the final eight teams in the country and finish top five at a national championship, it’s a pretty good year.”

It’s the second consecutive year that the Bulldogs have gotten hot at the right time. Last season they won the Columbus Regional by 15 shots to reach the NCAA Championships and finished 18th. This spring they finished third at the Albuquerque Regional and were among the 24 teams that qualified.

“It’s been a special past 30 days with this team,” Brewer said. “We showed up at the right time, which is what you really want.”

Georgia finished eighth in the 72-hole stroke-play portion of the championships and reached match play for the first time since the format was changed in 2015.

The Bulldogs shot a 2-over 290 team score on the final day to best Arizona State by two shots and Southern Cal by three shots to clinch the final spot in match play. Bae, who shot 67 in the third round, and Mahe, who closed with a 68, tied for sixth overall at 1-over 289.

“I’m very proud of everyone on the team,” Don said. “It feels like not many people believed that we could make it this far. A lot of people here on this team believed we could go even farther. That’s why we are disappointed right now. But it’s also a good learning opportunity, and hopefully we’ll be back next year stronger and ready when the opportunity presents itself again and we can keep going.”