By the time Cal senior Nicola Rossler stepped up to the 18th hole at the NCAA Championships, the last of her collegiate golf career, the battle for Cal’s first national title was already lost. But the team’s only senior and leading average scorer for the last two seasons had no intention of going out quietly. Instead, Rossler ended her career with an exclamation point, birdying her last hole for her fourth birdie of the dayand a 23rd place individual finish on the national stage.
“Nico (Rossler) finishing the way she did and putting herself in a top-25 position is really a great way to end her career,” head coach Nancy McDaniel told Cal Athletics. “She ended it with a birdie, which was exciting for everybody to see her end her career that way. That sums up what she’s all about as the team’s leader.”
Rossler’s career-ending finish was the highlightfor the Bears as they ended their 2013-14 season Friday in 22nd place at the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After four long days and 72 holes, the Bears (296-305-289-290) finished at 60 over par, 50 strokes behind first place Duke at 10 over. The No. 3 Blue Devils (293-285-278-274) took home the national title after rallying in the last two rounds to finish out of the reach of deadly duo No. 1 USC(293-291-278-270) and No. 2 UCLA(291-293-283-278), who finished in second and third respectively. Doris Chen of USC took home the individual title with a total score of 274,12 strokes ahead of Rossler, who finished at six over par.
The younger, less experienced Bears went into the tournament at the Tulsa Country Club as major underdogs vying for their first national title. Four out of the five Bears had never even played in a NCAA Championships, and they went up against an elite pool of 24 teams that included 14 teams ranked in the nation’s top-20.
“I think you have to be at the national championship with some returners to make a move on this field,” McDaniel told Cal Athletics. “We have (got) a lot of great experience out of this week, so I’m happy about it, and it’s great for the program.”
The Bears got off to a great start in their opening round May 20, finishing in sixth and just eight strokes out of first. Rossler carded the team’s best score of the day with even par at 70 for a top-10 individual finish.
Things began to go downhill starting in the second round Wednesday, when the Bears carded their worst round of the tournament with a score of 305. Windy weather combined with poor putting on the tough 6,194-yard course resulted in a combined total of 30 bogeys and three double bogeys between the five teammates. The Bears fell from sixth place to 21st place.
Even their lowest round score in the third round Thursday was not enough to bolster the Bears out of their lowly position. Rossler continued with her steady play at only one over par for the day, while sophomore Carly Childs added her lowest round of the tournament at two over par. Childs finished the tournament with the Bears’ second-best finish, tied for 59th individually.
Christine Menchaca covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]