SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Brianna Navarrosa doesn’t like to give herself ultimatums.
The junior at USC had no choice, though.
Rose Zhang, the top-ranked amateur in the world who Tuesday was named the winner of the 2023 ANNIKA Award, given to the best women’s college golfer, hit her approach shot at the par-3 16th hole at Grayhawk Golf Club inside 3 feet. Navarrosa had yet to hit her tee shot, but she wasn’t fazed.
Her ball landed about 8 feet away. And when she was lining up her putt, she knew its importance.
“I usually don’t say things like you have to make it or you have to get a birdie,” Navarrosa said, “but I knew I had to make a birdie. Standing over that putt, I don’t think I felt more confident than I have in my golf career.”
She buried the putt in the center, and with a 2 up lead with two holes to play, the putt was arguably the most important in the match.
USC knocked off top-seeded Stanford, the defending national champions, 3-2 in the semifinal match to advance to Wednesday’s national championship final against No. 2 Wake Forest. Navarrosa clinched the final point on the 17th green when she and Zhang halved the par-4 hole with pars. Wake Forest, meanwhile, beat Texas A&M 4-1 to advance.
USC coach Justin Silverstein said Navarrosa has struggled with her ball striking for the better part of four months after a strong start to the season. He said the result is a culmination of the hard work in the times the results weren’t quite showing.
“What it takes to beat (Zhang) is a ton of discipline, and you’ve got to run the table on the greens,” Silverstein said. “When we made the picks, I sent them to the team and she looked down at her phone then at me. I nodded and she did back and started eating again.
“She was ready for it.”
Navarrosa won her match, 2 and 1, joining Cindy Kou and Christine Park with victories for the Trojans.
On the other side, it was a battle with the heat for Wake Forest.
Last year, the Demon Deacons were one of the pre-championship favorites and missed the 15-team cut. All season, the message has been to finish and play strong.
And Mimi Rhodes wasn’t going to let anything stop her.
On Monday night, she ended up in the emergency room and had to get an IV for dehydration. During the back nine of her match against Texas A&M, she started to struggle against Bianca Fernandez Garcia-Poggio, almost to the point Wake Forest coach Kim Lewellen nearly called for a 10-minute medical stoppage.
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