Michigan State's Sarah Burnham Qualifies for NCAA Women’s Golf Championships

MSU Women's Golf star Sarah Burnham.  Photo courtesy of MSU SID.
MSU Women's Golf star Sarah Burnham. Photo courtesy of MSU SID.

Sarah Burnham Qualifies for NCAA Women’s Golf Championships

Spartans place 11th as a team.

Complete results: http://www.golfstatresults.com/public/leaderboards/gsnav.cfm?pg=team&tid=9989

STANFORD, Calif. – Sophomore Sarah Burnham has qualified to play in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships after winning a two-hole playoff in the third and final round of the NCAA Stanford Regional on Saturday.

Needing a top-six finish to advance as a team, the No. 42 Spartans placed 11th in the 18-team tournament at 41-over-par 893 (291-301-301), 10 shots behind sixth-place Virginia.

The top-three individuals not on those six qualifying teams also get to play in the NCAA Championships, which are set for May 20-25 at the Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon.

Burnham carded a 2-over 215 (71-71-73) through 54 holes, tying with UNLV’s Alexandra Kaui for the third and final individual spot at nationals. The two then had a playoff, and after both carded par on the par-4 18th, Burnham won on the second playoff hole with a birdie on the par-4 10th.

“I’m proud of Sarah and very happy for her,” said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. “She deserves to be at the NCAA Championships – she’s one of the best players in the country and she’s proved that all season long. The opportunity to really test herself at the national championship is going to be an incredible experience for her. I’m looking forward to being out there with her.”

Burnham’s 54-hole total of 215 on the par-71 Stanford Golf Course was the lowest three-round total ever by a Spartan at NCAA Regionals (previous: 216 by Lindsey Solberg in 2012). Overall, Burnham tied for ninth place, marking her seventh top-10 finish of the season.

After finishing her round, Burnham had to wait nearly two hours until competing in the playoff. Virginia, which qualified for sixth place by one shot, featured Elizabeth Szokol in its lineup, and Szokol would have taken one of the individual spots if the Cavaliers didn’t qualify as a team, forcing out Burnham and Kaui.

This marks the 12th time in Slobodnik-Stoll’s career she will be coaching either a team or individual at the NCAA Championships (10 team appearances; two individual appearances in 19 seasons).

Burnham will enter the NCAA Championships with a 72.33 season scoring average, which is on pace to eclipse the current record of 73.53 set by Caroline Powers in 2010-11.

No. 12 Stanford and No. 2 USC tied for first place on the team leaderboard at 4-over 856. No. 31 Ohio State (875), No. 45 North Carolina (878), No. 7 Arkansas (879) and No. 15 Virginia (883) rounded out the top six.

The NCAA Women’s Golf Championships are divided into four regional sites; each regional site hosts 18 teams and six individuals, with the top-six teams and top-three individuals not on those qualifying teams in each region advancing to the finals (total of 24 teams and 12 individuals).

The Spartans entered the third round in seventh place, just one shot behind sixth-place North Carolina. Although MSU dropped to 13th place early in the third round, it made a charge in the middle of the day and was back to just one shot back of sixth place at one point. But that was as close as the Spartans would get, as they eventually placed 11th by shooting a 301 for the second straight day and finishing at 893, 10 shots back of Virginia, which took sixth.

“I think we started off so well the first day (shooting a 291; tied for fourth), and then yesterday had two great scores, but as everyone knows you need to have four to shoot a number that will put you in a position to qualify,”

said Slobodnik-Stoll. “Today started off a little rocky, but through hole 13 and 14, we were right in it and just one shot out, but the wheels kind of fell off at the end. Our team just had to be a little bit stronger at the end and finish.

“It’s hard, because you know you should be there (at the NCAA Championships) and that the team is good enough. You’re always so anxious to see what they can do at the highest level, and with two seniors on the team (Alison Knowles and Gabby Yurik), you feel like they deserve that.”

Knowles tied for 42nd at 224 (76-72-76), while redshirt sophomore Katie Sharp tied for 57th at 228 (74-79-75). Knowles eagled the par-5 12th during Michigan State’s comeback attempt.

Freshman Carolyn Markley rounded out the team scoring for the Spartans on Saturday with a 77 and finished tied for 62nd (70-82-77—229). Yurik took 90th (81-79-80—240).

Michigan State will return three of its five starters from the NCAA Stanford Regional to the team next season (Burnham, Markley, Sharp).