May 25, 2012
FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Pepperdine freshman Alina Ching tied for 21st place individually and a young Waves squad finished in 21st place at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships on Friday.
The Waves lose just one senior, and next year they'll return two freshmen and two sophomores from this year's lineup at the NCAAs.
"Experience was what this tournament was all about," Pepperdine Coach Laurie Gibbs said. "We've worked hard and we got here. Obviously we wanted to play a little better, but in the end, I'm so proud of them. They really grinded hard for four days. The course was difficult, with very difficult hole locations, but the most important thing is they got great experience and we had a great week."
The Waves finished with a total of 1,204 strokes (306-293-304-301) at the par-72 Vanderbilt Legends Club.
Ching (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School), if she hadn't already, established herself as a player to watch on the national stage. The West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year shot either a 73 or a 74 in all four rounds and had at least a share of the Waves' best score every day.
She finished with a 6-over 294 (74-73-73-74). Ching had three birdies today (and had a team-high-tying 11 over the course of the week), including two on the final three holes to help push her back up the leaderboard.
Ranked #67 by Golfstat, Ching finished better than 44 other top-100 opponents.
The next three Waves all finished within a stroke of each other. Sophomore Grace Na (Alameda, Calif./Alameda HS) and freshman Somin Lee (Denver, Colo./Overland HS) tied for 77th place with a total of 304, while sophomore Liv Cheng (Auckland, New Zealand) tied for 84th place at 305.
Na, the two-time WCC Player of the Year and a 2011 All-American, dealt with multiple injuries during the postseason and couldn't ever quite recapture her form from earlier in the season, when she had five top-10 finishes and tied an NCAA record with a 9-under 63 at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown. She carded scores of 80-73-76-75 and had seven birdies this week.
Lee, who was the Waves' top finisher at the WCC Championships and NCAA West Regional, shot 74-73-79-77 and tied Ching with a total of 11 birdies over the four days. Cheng played consistently and finished up the tournament with her best round, going 77-76-77-75.
The Waves' lone senior, Kaitlin Drolson (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./Torrey Pines HS), had reason to smile after finishing her career with a birdie on her very last hole, the par-5 ninth. She tied for 106th place at 310 (80-74-78-78). Drolson played in her 126th career round today, tying Pepperdine's all-time record. She entered this week as Pepperdine's only veteran of previous NCAA Championships, having also taken part in the 2009 and 2010 tournaments.
Pepperdine was making its 11th appearance at the NCAA Championships, and the Waves were the only non-BCS school among this year's field of 24 teams. The Waves have four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in their history.
Despite a brief scare today, Alabama led after each of the four rounds and won its first-ever team championship, holding off USC by one stroke. Oklahoma's Chirapat Jao-Javanil won individual medalist honors.
Courtesy of pepperdinesports.com