AUBURN, Wash. - Duke sophomore Virada Nirapathpongporn won the individual crown, and led her team to the overall title on the final day of the 2002 NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championships at Washington National Golf Club.
The second-ranked Blue Devils notched five birdies in the final three holes to finish at 12-over 1,164, moving past three teams tied for second to claim the school's second national title in the past four years.
Sixth-ranked Arizona led each of the first three days of the tournament, but played the last four holes 4-over par to fall to 8-over for the day and join surging Texas and top-ranked Auburn in a three-way tie for second at 18-over. Defending national champion Georgia rounded out the top five with a score of 24-over for the tourney.
The round was not nearly as dramatic for individual champion Nirapathpongporn, who opened the day with a three-stroke lead and widened it to five by the end of the round, carding an even-par 72 to finish at 9-under and equal the NCAA's all-time championships scoring record of 279 established by Jennifer Rosales in 1998.
Three athletes tied for second at 4-under 284, including 2001 NCAA Player of the Year Lorena Ochoa of Arizona. Georgia's Summer Sirmons, the closest competitor to Nirapathpongporn through 56 holes, fired a 1-over 73 to join Ochoa at 4-under for the tournament, while Auburn's Danielle Downey carded an even-par 72 to round out the list of second-place finishers.
"I just kept telling myself, you've got to keep playing hard, because it
might come down to a shot or two," Nirapathpongporn said. "We worked hard
all year and I was happy to finish this off."
Nirapathpongporn is the second Duke player to win the national title in as many years, marking just the third time in history that teammates have performed the feat back-to-back. Candy Hannemann won the 2001 title for the Blue Devils, Emilee Klein and Kristel Mourgue d'Algue won titles for Arizona State in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and Susan Slaughter and Annika Sorenstam did the double for Arizona in 1990 and 1991, respectively.