BYU earned its best regional finish in school history despite playing with only four players for the final two rounds
ST. GEORGE -- Playing short-handed for the second day in a row, No. 14 BYU showed a gutsy performance and advanced to the NCAA Championships by finishing fifth at the NCAA West Regional on Saturday at Entrada at Snow Canyon.
"We accomplished what we came here to do," BYU head coach Sue Nyhus said. "The team showed tremendous courage, poise and maturity beyond their years in handling the unexpected situations that occurred this week."
Due to the loss of their No. 2 player, Natalia Jimenez, to an automobile injury after the first round, BYU had zero margin for error. With the top four out of five scores counting toward the team score in college golf, BYU's four remaining golfers knew that every stroke would be critical to advance. It is believed that BYU may be the only school in NCAA history to qualify for the NCAA Championship with only four players.
The Cougars started solid on their first nine holes and were just four over and in fifth place at the turn. In the middle of their last nine holes BYU started to struggle and their championship bid was in doubt. Juli Erekson had two consecutive birdies on holes five and six which kept the Cougars safe. The safety soon faded when three out of the four Cougars bogied their last hole (No. 9) which moved BYU from fifth place to ninth place. Then senior Rachel Newren come through when BYU needed her most, making birdies on holes seven and eight and a par on No. 9 to clinch BYU's advance to the NCAAs in Dayton Beach, Fla.
"You have to take your hat off to Rachel for puling everyone together and posting the low round two days in a row and making birdie two out of the last three holes," Nyhus said. "That was huge for us."
Newren had an outstanding tournament individually, finishing tied for third thanks to a tremendous two-under-par 69 in the final round. Newren's round included five birdies on holes 12, 14, 16, 7 and 8. For the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, this will be her third consecutive NCAA Championship. The Cougars qualified as a team in 2005 and Newren qualified as an individual in 2006. Coach Nyhus gives Newren a lot of the credit for the rise of BYU's nationally-ranked women's golf program over the last three years.
"With the help of her team, she moved the program into national prominence and put BYU on the map nationally," Nyhus said. "She is as good as they come."
Along with Newren, BYU had big rounds from senior Danielle von Arnim, Erekson and true freshman Daphne Vines. Von Arnim responded from a tough second day to post a clutch three-over-par 74. Erekson also responded well to the pressure by posting a five-over-par 76. Playing in her first NCAA tournament, Vines didn't look like a true freshman and posted a six-over-par 77. With each Cougar playing with injured teammate Natalia Jimenez close to their hearts, they showed the heart of a champion and fought their way into the finals in the face of strong adversity. BYU's fifth place finish at NCAA regionals is the best regional finish in school history.
"We were playing for our team and we were playing for Natalia (Jimenez)," Newren said.
As one of 24 teams to qualify from the three NCAA Regional events, BYU will now prepare to make a splash in college golf's biggest event -- the national championship. BYU finished in 24th place in 2005 and has been to Nationals five times in their history, with it's best finish coming in 1979 when it finished in 11th place.
1. Oklahoma State 291-290-293--874 +22
1. Stanford 287-300-287--874 +22
3. Arizona State 294-296-286--876 +24
4. Denver 299-306-286--891 +39
5. BYU 291-311-296--898 +46
5. UC Irvine 295-302-301--898 +46
7. Pepperdine 301-299-299--899 +47
8. New Mexico 298-312-298--908 +56
9. San Jose State 308-305-296--909 +57
10. Florida 309-304-297--910 +58
21 Teams Competing
BYU INDIVIDUAL SCORES
Rachel Newren 72-73-69--214 +1
Juli Erekson 71-78-76--225 +12
Danielle von Arnim 72-82-74--228 +15
Daphne Vines 76-78-77--231 +18
Natalia Jimenez 77-DNF