AUSTIN — As remedies go, this one was even better than a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Despite three players saddled with a virus, including one forced to withdraw after seven holes in the final round, the Baylor women’s golf team gutted it out and clinched a spot in the NCAA Championship field. The Lady Bears tied for third at the Austin Regional with two other squads to finish in the top six and advance on to the NCAAs for the third time in the past four seasons.
Baylor shot even-par 288 in the final round, and finished with a three-round total of 5-over 869, tying with Auburn and Florida. Arkansas won the regional title going away at 26-under, while Texas was second at 15-under. Oklahoma was the final qualifying team in sixth at six-over.
Baylor coach Jay Goble got emotional when he talked about the gusty effort of his squad, amid the illness.
“It’s hard to put into words, because at 6 o’clock this morning I would be lying if I didn’t say my first thought was that we were going to have to forfeit today and that we were not going to have a chance to go, because two of our players weren’t going to be able to finish,” Goble said. “From 3 o’clock in the morning until we got to the tee, that was about the only thing I was thinking about that was going to happen. Frustration starts to kick in, because you think that they don’t deserve this.
“They don’t deserve to finally be playing their best golf at the end of the year and not get a chance to go to nationals because of a stupid 24-hour bug that’s going around. But now, to see Diane (Baillieux) go out and do what she did today – it was probably the hardest day of the week, and she shot even-par. And Gurleen (Kaur), our other freshman, has just been a superstar this week.”
Both Baillieux and junior Maria Vesga spent most of Tuesday night in the emergency room, up until around 6 a.m. Wednesday, victims of a virus that affected several teams at the regional. Vesga started Wednesday’s final round and managed to get through seven holes before withdrawing. That meant Baylor’s other four players had to finish, in order to get the required four scorers.
Baillieux battled through her 18 holes and shot an even-par 72.
“Jay (Goble) stayed with me all 18 holes to make sure that I was OK and to focus on every shot,” Baillieux said. “I was doing OK in the beginning, and then on No. 9 and 10, I started to become whiter and whiter. And then on No. 13, I thought I would stop playing. But I knew that (Vesga) was already out. Jay was like, ‘You can do it! You can do it!’ And finally, I did it.”
BU freshman Gurleen Kaur shot 1-under 71 on Wednesday, and finished 12th overall at 3-under 216. Amy Lee also carded a 71 on Wednesday for Baylor, while Fiona Liddell managed to fight through the virus on her way to a final-round 74. Liddell finished with six consecutive pars.
Baylor will open up action at the 24-team NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, May 18-23 in Stillwater, Okla. The teams will play four rounds of stroke play before whittling the field to eight teams for match play.