Kristin Strankman and her Idaho teammates had a final round to remember at last month’s Big Sky Conference women’s golf championships.
Trailing by four strokes on the back nine, the Vandals roared back to beat Sacramento State by a stroke. The win in Boulder City, Nev., gave them a berth in this week’s NCAA Division I regionals.
Strankman, a senior and second-team all-Big Sky selection from Richland, shot a 72 and finished in a tie for third at even-par 216, four strokes behind winner and freshman teammate Sophie Hausmann.
“That was my best finish I’d ever had in my college career, so that was the right time to do it,” Strankman said.
Strankman has shot an average of 75 over 29 rounds this season for the Vandals, who open regional play Thursday on the par-71 Stanford (Calif.) Golf Course.
“I think my scoring average was better last year, but it’s all about conference and contributing to that league win and getting that banner up in the Kibbie Dome,” Strankman said.
Idaho is among 18 teams at the Stanford Regional. Six teams and three individuals will advance from each of the four regional tournaments to the NCAA championships May 20-25 in Eugene.
Moving beyond regionals will be no easy feat for the Vandals, who will compete against fellow conference champions USC (Pac-12), Virginia (ACC), UNLV (Mountain West), UC Riverside (Big West), Richmond (Patriot League) and Seton Hall (Big East). But their triumph over Sacramento State gives Strankman and her teammates confidence going into this weekend.
“We’re definitely the underdog, but I think that’s a great position to be in because we can play free and easy golf,” Strankman said.
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Staying on the West Coast is a bonus, and not just because the Vandals won’t have to adjust to a different time zone.
“We’re used to the grasses here,” said Strankman, who is making her first trip to the Bay Area. “It’s very similar to what we grew up with golf-wise.”
Strankman has helped set up the program nicely for next season, when Richland’s Danika Palm will join the Vandals.
“For sure, it was awesome when I heard she was coming this fall,” Strankman said. “It’s just nice to have some Tri-Cities kids that are going to Wazzu and UI, and upping the level of competition.”