COLUMBUS, Ohio - Vanderbilt fans and the entire women's golf staff can now take one big sigh of relief after Saturday's final round at the NCAA Central Regional - after a second-place result in Columbus, Ohio, the Commodores will now participate in the 2012 NCAA Women's Golf Championship that will be held on their home course, Vanderbilt Legends Club, from May 22-25. The top eight teams from three regionals advance to the championship, with the top two individuals not affiliated with qualifying teams also making arrangements for a trip to Franklin, Tenn., in two weeks.
The Commodores accomplished the feat in a big way Saturday, with the team advancing to their third consecutive national championship for only the second time in school history, and finishing second at an NCAA Regional, Vanderbilt's second-highest finish at a regional. Only the 2004 Commodore team finished better after claiming the Central Regional that year in Normal, Ill., at Illinois State.
Additionally, Vanderbilt placed three golfers in the top 20, with senior Marina Alex leading the way. The 2012 SEC Player of the Year fired a one-under par, 215 (70-73-72) for the regional, and finished in third place. Junior Lauren Stratton ended the tournament in a tie for eighth with a five-over par, 221 (75-68-78), and freshman Kendall Martindale had her best finish of the season, finishing in a tie for 17th after carding a nine-over par, 225 (80-73-72).
"Ever since we were named the host site for this year's championship a few years ago, I've thought about today and making the championship," said Vanderbilt head coach Greg Allen. "For our players to step up the way they did - to post a great round Friday, and then to hang in there and get second place after a hard day - I'm really proud of them.
"It is a huge sigh of relief. Like it or not, there was some added pressure out there this week, and we showed some good character to overcome it."
The Commodores' 899 team total was second only to Southern Cal, who claimed the regional with an 874 total. Vanderbilt finished three strokes in front of third-place Purdue. Three teams in the top 25, number four Auburn, the 2012 SEC Tournament champion, number nine Georgia, and number 21 Oregon did not qualify for the national championship in Franklin. Besides the Trojans and Commodores, the other teams to qualify from the region include Purdue, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio State, North Carolina State, and Arkansas.
Individually, Lisa McCloskey of Southern Cal and Maria Salinas of Florida State tied for the individual championship with a three-under par, 213.
As for the Commodores, they'll get back to business this week to prepare for a once in a lifetime opportunity - hosting a national championship on their home course.
"We'll plan our week and we'll figure out our practice plan," said Allen. "We really need to spend some time on the North Course. I don't want there to be any surprises. I want our players to know every blade of grass on that course."
2. Vanderbilt - 308-292-299=899
3. Marina Alex - 70-73-72=215
T8. Lauren Stratton - 75-68-78=221
T17. Kendall Martindale - 80-73-72=225
T79. Rene Sobolewski - 83-78-77=238
110. Anna Leigh Keith - 86-80-81=247