History will be made at Baylor when the women’s golf team travels to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to play in the NCAA Championships for consecutive years. This will be the team’s third championship appearance in four years. The tournament is being played at the par-72, 6,328-yard Karsten Creek Golf Club.
Baylor earned entry into the championship after finishing third at the Austin Regional. This despite two of their five players having spent most of the final night of the tournament in the emergency room with a stomach virus. Maria Vesga and Diane Baillieux both made it to the final round. Vesga was unable to finish the round, having to leave the course in a golf cart. Baillieux battled through her illness, shooting one of her best rounds to finish the round at par.
“Diana’s round was unbelievable,” Baylor coach Jay Goble said. “She was struggling really bad. She was in the ER until 6 in the morning, teeing off around 9, 9:30. To be honest with you, she gutted it out all day. She was never going to quit, and she played her heart out, played probably one of the best rounds I’ve seen her play this year, probably one of the best rounds I’ve ever witnessed.”
The Lady Bears are the 20th-ranked team in the nation. Of the Golfstat ranked teams, all of the top 10 teams are in the tournament. Of the top 20 teams, only the 11th, 14th and 17th-ranked teams didn’t make the championship.
The format of the tournament is three rounds of stroke play beginning Friday. The fourth round will have the top 15 teams continue to a fourth round of stroke play Monday. The top eight teams will then advance to match play. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played Tuesday, and the championship round will be match play on Monday.
Stroke play is the competition most people are familiar with, where each stroke of the round is counted and, at the end of the round, the player with the lowest score wins. In match play, a player is pitted against another player. The player that shoots the fewer shots for the hole wins the hole. If both players tie, then the hole is a wash. At the end of the round, the player with the most holes wins.
Baylor’s lineup for Stillwater will be the same as was used in the NCAA Austin Regional. Baillieux will be the No. 1 spot, followed by Gurleen Kaur, Vesga, Fiona Liddell and Amy Lee.
“I’m unbelievably proud and super grateful to have such a great group of girls, to push through even the virus,” said Lee. “Big shout-out to Diane and Maria for trying even though they were really sick. And our freshman, Gurleen, played really, really well. Altogether as a team, we played awesome.”
Baylor is playing with Louisville and Virginia for the first two rounds. Louisville is seeded 19th and Virginia is seeded 21st. The teams will begin from the 10th tee at 8:36 a.m. Friday and from the first tee Saturday at 1:21 p.m.
This tournament is Goble’s fourth NCAA tournament in the seven years as Baylor’s coach. Regarding the Karsten Creek course, Goble said, “I know absolutely nothing, which is probably better than not knowing a lot. Tomorrow morning, (Baylor men’s golf head coach Mike McGraw) is going to spend some time with the team and go over the golf course and talk to them about it. It’s a great opportunity to have somebody that knows the golf course really well tell us how to play it.”
Baylor is one of seven schools with the women’s and men’s teams returning to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year. Alabama, Arizona State, Duke, Kent State, Stanford and Texas are the other teams.