Minnesota Gophers women’s head coach Rhyll Brimstead was quoted before the Westfield Regional that Bella McCauley’s parents should probably just book their plane tickets to Scottsdale for the NCAA Championships then, because they way she is playing, she will be there. Those worlds came true on Wednesday afternoon when the Inver Grove Heights, MN native finished the Westfield Regional in 6th place overall at -7 for the 54 hole tournament. McCauley was the top individual finisher who was not on a team that made the regional, and will earn an automatic berth to the 2023 NCAA Championships held at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona from May 19-23.
McCauley started her tournament on Monday with a +2 74. She hung around even par for most of her round before bogeying two of her last three holes to drop to +2. She along with fellow Gopher freshman Luisamariana Mesones were tied after the first 18 holes with two other gophers for the top individual at the regional.
McCauley picked it up quickly in her second round on Tuesday. A birdie on the par five 5th hole put her at -1 for her round on the first nine. She would get scorching hot on the back nine birdying four of the nine holes including the par-4 18th hole she had bogeyed the day before to shoot a -5 67 and have a score of -3 through two rounds of play. Mesones shot a -1 71 to bring her total score to +1 for the tournament after 36 holes.
The final round would be where all the payoff would be. McCauley took a to shot lead for top individual into the final 18 and she would not be stopped. This time it would be the front nine that she would slay going -4. Add in a birdie at the tenth hole making it three in a row and she seemed in control. She would give one shot back on the par-4 16th hole, but it would be more than enough. She finished her round with a -4 68 and a three round total of -7 placing her 6th overall, and atop the individual leaderboard five shots ahead of Colorado State’s Sofia Torres. Mesones struggled to a 76 on Wednesday placing her in a tie for 37th.
McCauley now becomes the first Gopher women’s golfer to compete at an NCAA Championships since the entire team qualified in 2011. She ate up the par-4’s on the course leading the field with an average score of 3.87.
Congrats to Bella and good luck at the NCAA Championships!