Arizona upsets Bama, wins third NCAA title

Haley Moore of Arizona sank a four-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Lakareber Abe of Alabama and give the Wildcats their third title in the NCAA Women’s National Golf Championships at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

Arizona, which also claimed the title in 1996 and 2000, beat the top-ranked Crimson Tide, 3-2, in the match-play final.

“It means so much, it actually seems like a dream,” said Moore, who had a 2-up lead on the front nine but fell behind when Abe won three straight holes through No. 12. “I did this for my team, for all my teammates.

“When I got behind on the back nine, I just told myself to keep hitting good shots and making putts. I just kept battling and got it done.”

Moore, a junior from Escondido near San Diego, went 3-0 in match play.

Abe two-putted for a birdie on the final hole of regulation to pull even and force the playoff, but missed another birdie attempt from about five feet before Moore knocked in the winner.

In the other matches, Yu-Sang Hou of Arizona upset All-American Lauren Stephenson, 4 and 3, and Sandra Nordaas gave the Wildcats their second point by defeating Angelica Moresco, 1 up.

Alabama’s other two All-Americans won their matches, with Kristen Gillman downing Gigi Stoll, 4 and 3, and Cheyenne Knight defeating Arizona hero Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 3.

Arizona seemed to be headed home two days earlier when Pagdanganan sank a 25-foot eagle putt on the final hole of stroke-play qualifying to tie Baylor and get the Wildcats into a playoff, which they won on the second extra hole when Pagdanganan made one of two crucial birdies.

“This was a very interesting year, and we played solid all spring, but hadn’t yet played our best,” said Arizona Coach Laura Ianello, who played on the Wildcats’ 2000 national championship team. “When we got here, I knew that with the talent of these five young women, anything was possible.

“I’m so proud that I am the coach of the team that brought the title back to Arizona.”

On Tuesday in the quarterfinals, Arizona upset Pacific 12 Conference champion UCLA, 3-2, and in the semifinals got past another Pac-12 rival,

Alabama’s only national women’s title came in 2012.

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