SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After the round on Monday, Missy Farr-Kaye told her Sun Devil team it was over. She cried. Told them they’d had a rough year and that whatever happens, happens. It would all be OK.
They went over to Phil’s Grill and sat on the patio to have lunch and watch the finish. The grill at Grayhawk is named after ASU alum Phil Mickelson, who became golf’s oldest major champion when he won the PGA on Sunday. Perhaps the mojo of the place would rub off.
Lo and behold, a shift occurred. Wake Forest starting plummeting down the board. The nuns at Farr-Kaye’s alma mater, Xavier Prep, texted to say they were praying. ASU players kept playfully hitting their coach, telling Farr-Kaye that she’d called it too fast.
“I said that was the omen, I had already ended the season,” said Farr-Kaye. “I couldn’t be happier to be wrong on that one.”
Arizona State and Arizona finished four rounds of stroke play knotted at 21 over. Arizona took the eighth seed based on the cumulative score of all five players and will face Stanford in the quarterfinals Tuesday morning. Arizona State will square off against Duke.
The Cardinal, led by freshman Rachel Heck, who won the individual title, finished 13 strokes ahead of the field. Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Texas and Auburn round of the eight teams that advanced. Auburn’s 10-under 278 is the lowest NCAA Championship round in school history.
Melissa Luellen, who spent 13 seasons as head coach at ASU before moving to Auburn, admittedly wanted to throw up at one point as bogeys started to pepper the board, but wound up crying tears of joy when it was over, calling it some of the greatest golf she’s ever seen.
“I think it’s very advantageous to come from behind,” she said, “but when you’re 11 behind, that’s a big mountain to climb. I’ve been in situations where we’ve had 5 holes left and it’s a 13-shot swing. I’ve had a 22-shot lead and lost in on the last day … anything can happen.”
Luellen credited a shift in course management for the Tigers’ turnaround, keeping driver in the bag and hitting more 3-woods and 5-woods to find the fairways. Auburn improved 27 strokes from Day 1 to Day 4.
Florida State, looking for its first match-play appearance, seemed primed to force a playoff until freshman Alice Hodge, typically a model of consistency, double-bogeyed her final hole. The Seminoles and LSU finished one shot shy of a playoff.
Both Oklahoma State and Ole Miss advanced to match play for the first time in school history. Stanford, the 2015 champions, has made match play all six times.
There was a moment this spring when Farr-Kaye thought she’d lost her 2017 NCAA Championship ring. Chemo fog is real, she said. She forgets names, where she put things.
“It kills so many good cells along with the bad cells,” she said.
Farr-Kaye, 53, a two-time breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed with colon cancer last November. Just before Thanksgiving, Farr-Kaye’s three sons dropped her at the hospital door for surgery – to remove the mass and her appendix – and picked her up three days later.
Farr-Kaye finished her chemo treatments in April and is cancer-free but still feels the effects. Adrenaline gets her through these long days, and she walks less. Though she lives about 25 minutes away from Grayhawk she’s staying at the team hotel this week to avoid the temptation to do housework.
Picking a favorite championship, she said, is like picking a favorite kid. Impossible to do. But a third bout with cancer and a global pandemic puts this one in a unique category of resilience.
“I couldn’t be more blessed right now,” she said.
Hopefully the nuns are back at it tomorrow.
Match play quarterfinals, 9 a.m., Golf Channel
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 8 Arizona
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Arizona State
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Auburn
No. 4 Ole Miss vs. No. 5 Texas
Match play semifinals, 2 p.m., Golf Channel
Match play championship, 2 p.m., Golf Channel
Photos: NCAA Div. I Women’s Golf Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club
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