After 54 holes, two sweltering days and constant flip-flopping on the leaderboards, the 39th annual Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational all came down to a decision to determine the individual champion.
Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan, who entered Tuesday’s final round of the event with a six-stroke lead, stumbled down the stretch and finished with a 2-over 74 for an 8-under 208 total.
Stanford’s Andrea Lee, playing a number of holes away from Pagdanganan on Tuesday, finished her day with three straight pars, closed with a 5-under 67 and also finished at 8-under 208.
Both players watched Nancy “Cotty” Cotner’s large outdoor scoreboard — each saying they were unaware of anyone else’s scores — as the totals were posted.
“You know, we have some rules (for such an occasion) in our notice to the coaches,” said UNM coach Jill Trujillo, whose Lobos were the host team and finished in a three-way tie for seventh in the 18-team field. “But I let them decide, because breaking the tie has to do with rankings and stuff like that. They both wanted to be co-champions, so they are co-champions.
“We only have a playoff if there are no time constraints. But there were planes to catch and teams had to leave.”
Trujillo nearly had to make a decision for the team title. Defending tournament champion Oklahoma State and last season’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern were tied with one hole left.
But Oklahoma State picked up two shots and won the title with a 1-under 863. Northwestern was second at 1 over.
The Lobos had rounds of 295-289-295 for a 15-over 879, tying with Iowa and Iowa State.
Five players compete for each team, with the top four scores each round counting toward team total.
“I think we held it together pretty well,” Trujillo said of her bunch. “(Tuesday) was a little tougher day, I think we handled the pressure fairly well. Darian (Zachek) lost a couple of shots down the stretch, but then she got it back together, which is great.
“Our seniors (Ingrid Gutierrez and Alexandra Moisand) are really wanting to go out with a bang, and maybe put a little too much pressure on themselves. But they are great leaders and played pretty solid. I’m really happy with the way we did.”
Zachek, a junior from Deming, had the Lobos’ top finish. She closed with a 1-over 72 and tied for fifth at 2-under 214. Gutierrez tied for 33rd at 5 over, Moisand had three rounds of 74 and finished 6 over in a tie for 37th.
Coming into the day, it didn’t appear anyone could give Pagdanganan much of a run. Her lead still seemed safe with three holes left.
But she made back-to-back double bogeys on her 16th and 17th holes to actually lose the lead before closing with a birdie that ended up giving her a share of the crown.