Some time today the Grand Canyon University women’s golf team will find out which NCAA regional they will compete in, their reward for winning the Western Athletic Conference Championship.
But the suspense of waiting to learn their next destination pales by comparison to the drama the team lived through a week ago.
The Antelopes played 54 holes over three days, competing for the WAC Tournament title, and it wasn’t until the final putt dropped on the final hole before they could claim the distinction of becoming the first GCU team to qualify for Division I postseason play. GCU spent four years transitioning from Division II to D-I and during that transition period they were ineligible to play in the WAC Tournament.
Once through it, they wasted no time proving they deserved the right to compete at that level. They even had to come from behind to earn the school’s first WAC title.
The ‘Lopes were in third place going into the third and final day of play at The Legacy Golf Club in Phoenix, five strokes behind the leader at that point, Seattle University. They caught up to the rest of the field and the tournament title eventually came down to a one-foot putt by a freshman from Thailand.
Siripatsom Patchana holed that final putt to give her new team the victory, and also came home with another trophy after winning the tournament’s individual title. Patchana was also selected as the WAC Freshman of the Year and her coach, Lauren Giesecke, was named the WAC Coach of the Year.
Patchana, who has been nicknamed “Siri” by her teammates, was the highest-ranked freshman in the WAC going into the conference tournament, sporting a 74.64-stroke average, four top-10 tourney finishes, and three top-five finishes. Her six-under finish at the WAC Tournament set a new tournament record.
She and teammate Deanna Salvatori were named to the five-member All-WAC First Team. The 5’5″ senior from Oregon set the school record for single-season birdies (101) and spent most of the season ranked among the top 10 college golfers in the nation.
Giesecke is in her third year directing the program, coming from South Florida where she was an assistant coach.
“Coming into this job, this was my goal, the 2018 WAC Championship,” she admitted after securing the title. “It was them coming together, being friends, helping each other on the range, putting, doing contests, staying after practice on their own, doing what they needed to do. That’s what you don’t see behind the scenes, but that’s what got us a championship.”
And that’s what it took to finally de-throne New Mexico State, which had won the previous four WAC Championships.
This was actually the third time this season that both teams appeared in the same tournament. The ‘Lopes finished one spot ahead of the Aggies in the first two, and then edged them out in the one that really counted. GCU shot an 868 total team score in the WAC Tournament, while runner-up NMSU finished one stroke behind at 869.
That’s what Giesecke has been preaching all season long…every shot counts.
Never before has that been more true.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)