“Second place finish only makes us hungrier”: Golf finishes as runner-up at NCAA Championship

| Managing Sports Editor

Women’s golf poses with trophies at the 2023 NCAA Championship awards ceremony. (Photo Courtesy of the Athletic Department)

To say that they tried would be an understatement because they did more than that. They fought. In one of the most prolific seasons the program has ever seen, women’s golf battled at this year’s NCAA Golf Championship to finish as the runner-up–the highest finish in program history. 

“I am elated,” junior Caraline Oakley said. “We have worked hard this season and have had quite a few team victories throughout the year, so we knew going in that we had the ability to place well. This second-place finish only makes us hungrier for the gold next year.”

The Washington University women’s golf team finished second at the 2023 NCAA Division III Championships, putting a team score of 938 behind George Fox University who won the title with score of 933. The finish was the highest in program history for the Bears. 

The Bears’ outstanding performance in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida was led by senior Annie Mascot and sophomore Sydney Kuo, who combined for a scoreline of 143 on the final day. In her last golf tournament as a Bear, Mascot had herself a field day as she not only won the individual tournament — the first title by a WashU player in history — but also shot a tournament record of 68 on the final day, bringing her to a total score of 224. Her 68 mark also set a new NCAA Championship record. 

Teammate Kuo wasn’t too far behind. The 2023 Division III PING WGCA Player of the Year brought her game to Florida, tying for second overall and shooting a 75 on the final day for an overall score of 227.

“I don’t think there was any single thing, in particular, going through my mind,” Kuo said. “I find that the key to [a] good performance is to stay in the moment and enjoy the present. Between hitting shots on the course, I usually have a song that plays in my head. This tournament, for example, I had ‘Mood’ by DPR IAN and ‘Better’ by Khalid in my head on repeat.”

Over the course of the three-round tournament, the Bears kept themselves within reach of George Fox University. They put up a valiant effort in the first round, coming in second place with a scoreline of 319 against tournament-winner George Fox, who put up a scoreline of 318. They fell short in the second round but put up a championship-worthy performance in the final round to cement their second-place finish.

The Bears finished the final round with a score of 299, shooting the low score of the day and the entire championship.

“I know an actual championship [win] was in reach, but I am proud of how we finished,”  Oakley said. “We put our best score up on the last day, so we finished strong. The team dynamic was confident and supportive, and our coach really emphasized enjoying every moment of this amazing experience. Golf is such a tough game mentally, so we made sure to consistently be lifting one another up.”

While there’s no “I” in the team (the historic second-place finish was for the golf program), it was a special second-place finish for graduating senior Mascot, who meant so much to her teammates throughout her collegiate career for the Bears.

“We cheered each other on as we finished our rounds,” said Oakley. “We gave huge hugs to Annie as she walked off the 18th hole that last day. She really ended her collegiate golf career with a bang, and I couldn’t be happier for her.”

While they didn’t win the entire tournament, Kuo echoed Oakley’s words that a second-place finish is a motivation for the future and is a testament to what the golf team is capable of.

“To think that our team had such a great finish is amazing because it is a testament to all of the hard work we’ve put in as a team and individually the whole year to compete at such a high-profile championship,” Kuo said. “It proves to other teams and ourselves that we are capable of great things and [that] we are a force to be reckoned with. I also think this is a huge boost of confidence for our whole team, and also a boost in team morale.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.