As she approached the 18th green at Sewailo Golf Club on Wednesday afternoon, Colorado’s Brittany Fan wasn’t fully aware of what was at stake for the Buffaloes.
“At the time I did not, but in the back of my mind was … just give it your all and whatever happens happens,” Fan said.
The junior drained about a 25-foot putt from the fringe for a birdie on the final hole and that proved to be a monumental shot for the Buffs at the Pac-12 Championships in Tucson, Ariz.
While UCLA coasted to its first conference title since 2006, the Buffaloes finished in second place, giving them the best conference tournament finish in the 23-year history of the program.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to today, but overall I’m just really proud and happy for the team,” CU head coach Anne Kelly said. “That’s a great finish in what I consider the toughest conference in the country.”
Ranked No. 26 in the country by Golfweek, CU beat five top-25 teams, including No. 2 Arizona State and No. 3 Stanford.
Fifth-ranked UCLA finished at 2-under-par 862, while CU was 21 shots back at 19-over 883. Stanford (884) and host Arizona (887) were both within four shots of the Buffs.
Fan’s birdie on 18 gave CU a two-shot cushion over Stanford with only a couple of scores to be posted.
Overall, Wednesday was the toughest day of the tournament for CU, which was 13-over par for the round. Every other team in the top five was at 2-over or better, putting some pressure on the Buffs, who came into the day comfortably in second place, 12 shots ahead of Stanford.
“I think maybe we were a little tight and just didn’t drive the ball quite as well, didn’t quite make as many putts,” Kelly said. “Whatever it was, it’s a great learning experience. Next time we’re in that position, we’ll be a little better prepared.”
Despite Wednesday’s struggles, the Buffs posted just the fourth top-five conference finish in their history, and topped the third-place finish they had at the Big 12 Tournament in 2006.
“It’s nice to set goals, but we kind of just go out there, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just play with what you have and play your best for that day,” Fan said.
Individually, Fan led the Buffs with a three-round score of 4-over 220, leaving her in a tie for seventh place. It’s just the 10th top-seven finish in a conference tournament in CU history.
Senior Esther Lee finished in a tie for ninth at 5-over. This is the third time CU has had two players in the top 10 at a conference tournament.
Freshman Robyn Choi tied for 11th at 6-over, while Kirsty Hodgkins tied for 16th at 9-over. Also a freshman, Hodgkins was CU’s leader after two rounds, but struggled to a 9-over 81 on Wednesday.
Sophomore Lauryn Keating finished at 30-over, but closed with her best round, firing a 4-over 76 on Wednesday.
UCLA’s Lilia Vu won the individual title with a 7-under 209. Her teammate, Mariel Galdiano, finished six shots back in second place.
CU now looks ahead to the NCAA regionals and will learn its regional destination on Thursday.
“I think it’s great momentum going into regionals,” Fan said of the Buffs’ conference performance. “It’s a good amount of confidence. Just knowing that we can beat the best teams really helps.”
Lee and Hodgkins received All-Pac-12 honorable mention. … UCLA’s 21-shot margin of victory was the sixth-widest margin in the history of this event, and the second biggest margin since 1995. … CU was fifth the past two seasons. Prior to 2015, the Buffs had posted just one top-five conference finish in their history.
TEAM SCORES — UCLA 290-285-287—862, 2. Colorado 296-286-301—883, 3. Stanford 296-298-290—884, 4. Arizona 305-293-289—887, 5. USC 304-303-287—894, 6. Arizona State 307-292-296—895, 7. Washington 308-292-301—901, 8. Oregon State 317-299-302—918, 9. Oregon 318-308-293—919, 10. California 316-309-306—931, 11. Washington State 316-314-305–935.
BUFF INDIVIDUALS — T7 Brittany Fan 74-72-74—220, T9 Esther Lee 76-71-74—221, T11 Robyn Choi 72-73-77—222, T16 Kirsty Hodgkins 74-70-81—225, 54 Lauryn Keating 84-86-76–246.
TOP 5 INDIVIDUALS — 1 Lilia Vu, UCLA 71-66-72–209, 2 Bethan Wu, UCLA 73-73-69–215, T3 Andrea Lee, Stanford 72-70-75–217, T3 Linnea Strom, Arizona State 74-74-69–217, T5 Krystal Quihuis, Arizona 77-71-71–219, T5 Haley Moore, Arizona 78-69-72–219,