Women’s Golf: Wildcats lose in match play final, still secure best finish in program history


Daily file photo by Ben Pope

Kacie Komoto watches her putt. The senior and the Wildcats fell just short of a national title, losing to Arizona State in the final on Wednesday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. — The Wildcats didn’t win the National Championship on Wednesday. They lost 3-1-1 to No. 1-ranked Arizona State in the finals of match play and settled for the silver runner-up trophies.

But it would’ve been impossible to tell in the press room, into which the entire team bounded with smiles on their faces, cracking jokes at a press table together and enjoying their moment in the sun. They were here for the best finish in program history, and they were not going to be sad about it.

“I’m so, so proud of this group,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We’ve been pointing to Rich Harvest Farms for a few years. We knew the National Championship was going to be here and we wanted to be a part of it, but I don’t think on any level did we really, really dream that we’d be sitting up here at this table with the bright lights and the microphones.”

For senior Kacie Komoto, it was the end of a four-year journey that featured the best finish in school history each of those years. Komoto was the lone Wildcat golfer to win in the final, defeating Sophia Zeeb 3-and-1 for NU’s only point.

She was a leader for the Cats all weekend, tying for 14th in the stroke play, clinching the quarterfinal match and helping stage a stunning comeback in the semifinal match earlier Wednesday morning.

“It’s all kind of been a blur really,” Komoto said. “I was just trying to keep moving forward and see what’s in front of me, and we’ve all been doing that this week. But now we all feel very blessed to be here.”

Junior Hannah Kim was the star of the squad all season, and that was no different Wednesday. In the morning, Kim won three straight holes to steal her match and secure a point for NU in the semis.

She returned in the afternoon to go shot-for-shot with individual champion Monica Vaughn as the two exchanged spectacular drives, pinpoint iron shots and clutch putts. The match ended as a draw, as Arizona State clinched the winning match elsewhere while Kim and Vaughn teed off on an extra hole.

“Going into the match against Arizona State, we knew it was going to be challenging, especially for me personally,” Kim said. “I knew it was going to be a fight, but we fought hard and just had fun, trusted ourselves and played great.”

Sophomore Janet Mao was the hero of the morning, sinking a tough par putt on the 19th hole of her match to push the Cats past the Trojans and into the final. Mao was down two heading into the final two regulation holes that morning, but won 16 and 18 before her heroics.

She was also upset she didn’t get a microphone at the press conference, joking that she would have to shout for anyone to hear her. On the course, her game did the talking.

“I knew that I needed to go out and win that match, and I was going to do that for my teammates and my coaches and everybody,” Mao said. “There was not a doubt in my mind when I struck that putt.”

Junior Sarah Cho was the jokester of the squad at the table, claiming the gameplan was simply to “Go out and win,” to laughter from the rest of the team. She was also stone cold on the course, winning her quarterfinal and semifinal matches to give the Cats early leads in both matches.

In the final, however, Cho dropped four of the first five holes and couldn’t rebound, leaving NU in an early 1-0 deficit.

For sophomore Stephanie Lau, it simply wasn’t her best week on the course. In the final, she ran into a red-hot Linnea Strom, who birdied three of four holes to seal the title for Arizona State.

The group may be done for the year, but their legacy is far from complete.

“We can do anything we put our minds to,” Mao said. “It’s been an incredible experience, and I’ve really grown from it. It’s a big stepping stone to a lot of things we can accomplish in the future.”

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