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Northwestern women’s golf loses to Arizona State in NCAA Championship

Northwestern women's golf team wins semifinal round against USC 3-2. | Courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

One shot away from elimination in the morning, Arizona State capped off a dream day with a resilient performance to win the NCAA women’s golf title.

Linnea Strom set off a wild celebration with one last birdie in the afternoon final that gave Arizona State a 3-1-1 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.

The championship match, however, was never really close once Strom began to pull away from Stephanie Lau.

The lone Northwestern victory came from Kacie Komoto, who beat Sophia Zeeb.

Northwestern was making only its sixth appearance in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, and it was trying to join Purdue as the only Big Ten school to win.

“We hung with them for quite a while,” Northwestern coach Emily Fletcher said. “You don’t get too many chances to play for a national championship. This was the first one for our program. We’re going to try to build off it.”

Arizona State won its eighth women’s golf title, extending its NCAA record, and it’s first since 2009.

Olivia Mehaffey, who joined Strom in winning all three of her matches, was 5 up through seven holes and easily put away Sarah Cho. Roberta Liti won three straight holes to start the back nine and won, 5 and 4, over Mao.

When the long day began, it looked as though the Sun Devils might not be around very long.

Stanford had a 2-1 lead in the semifinals when the Sun Devils chose not to continue Tuesday evening because of darkness. Albane Valenzuela was 1 up on NCAA individual champion Monica Vaughn and only needed to halve the par-5 18th for the Cardinal to advance to the final for the third consecutive year.

From about 40 yards short, Vaughn’s eagle pitch rolled off the pin and set up a short birdie that squared the match when Valenzuela missed her birdie. On the 19th hole, Valenzuela failed to get up-and-down from behind the first green and Vaughn won the match with a par.

Then it came down to Strom, who was all square in her match. Strom rolled in a 7-foot par putt on the 18th to extend the match, and she won in 19 holes, with Madeline Chou of Stanford three-putted from 40 feet away on the fringe.

Northwestern staged its own rally in the semifinals to beat USC. The Wildcats trailed in four matches when they returned in the morning. They turned it around behind Janet Mao, who won the 16th and 18th holes to extend the match and then won on the 19th hole with a 12-foot par putt.