The Northern Arizona University women’s golf team will be going to the NCAA Regionals this year. And for one member of that team, it holds special meaning.
Stephanie Kim is the lone senior on the 2013 squad and has waited four years to be able to play in regional competition. The 2009 graduate of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix has enjoyed a stellar career with the Lumberjack program – but that trip to the regionals is one honor that has eluded her.
The Lumberjacks have played in just five NCAA Regional Championships in the program’s history.
As a freshman, Kim broke the school records for scoring average, single-round score, and most tournament wins. As a result, she was named the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, becoming the first golfer in league history to win both honors in the same season.
She repeated as conference Player of the Year as a sophomore, was named an All Big Sky first-team selection for the second time, and broke her own school record for scoring average with 75.3 per round. As a junior, she joined the conference second team, but maintained a 77.2 stroke average over 11 tournaments.
And, finally, she will get a chance to test her skills at the regional level.
“I’ve waited four years for this,” said the diminutive five-footer after her team won the conference title. “We’ve worked so hard this year and I don’t know how to explain how proud I am of my team.”
NAU fell behind Portland State by nine strokes in the opening round of the three-day 2013 Big Sky Championship, but came back to finish with an 882-stroke total to defeat the runner-up Vikings by four strokes.
It was the seventh Big Sky Golf Championship in the history of the program – the most all-time among Big Sky schools – and the first for the Flagstaff school since 2009. The Jacks, who were picked in the pre-season to finish atop the conference, lived up to expectations in a big way. Their final score in the championship matches bettered the previous best score in program history by nine strokes.
Kaitlen Parson, a junior from Washington who is the only left-hander on the team, was the Jacks’ top scorer for all three rounds. She posted scores of 73-71-71 to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team. Her 215 total also put her in a tie for the best three-round score in program history.
This NAU team was mostly home-grown. Four of the seven players were recruited out of Arizona high schools, including Kim, Laura Jabczenski (Catalina Foothills High School), Melissa Olson (Marana Mountain View High), and Darian Spivey (Mountain Pointe High). All three are sophomores.
The Lumberjacks are likely headed to the West Regional, which will be hosted by Stanford University May 9-11. The field of teams will be officially announced next Monday, April 29, and the selection show can be viewed live on NCAA.com.
(Photo: NAU Athletics)