Sarah Rhee started Tuesday as a little-known freshman on the Washington women’s golf team. She finished the day as a Huskie folk hero after propelling her team to the finals of the NCAA Women’s Championship with an unbelievable come-from-behind victory against UCLA’s Louise Ridderstrom.
Washington had already secured 2 points against the Bruins, but where it would get the deciding third point in the teams’ semifinal showdown was unclear. Rhee was 3 down to Ridderstrom with three holes to play at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, so the freshman from Seattle didn’t seem to be the likely candidate.
But birdies on the 16th and 17th holes by Rhee started to make things interesting. And when Ridderstrom bogeyed the 18th hole to send the match to extra holes, Rhee had the momentum.
It seemed to be snapped when Rhee’s approach shot to on the par-4 first hole found the greenside bunker right, Ridderstrom putting her second shot on the back fringe 12 feet from the hole.
And then Rhee did this:
The holed bunker shot for birdie was the definition of a match-play reversal. Already flustered by the previous three holes, Ridderstrom couldn’t regroup, missing her birdie try and watching UCLA’s season come to an end.
That it came from a first-year player who had posted a 75.80 stroke average with just one top-10 finish all season (and that coming last September), makes the story -- and the shot -- even more dramatic.
Washington and Rhee’s reward? A spot in the final with the defending NCAA champs, Stanford, and the chance to claim their first national title in school history.