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Haley Moore’s putt caps Arizona’s improbable national championship run

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Moore’s putt will go down in Arizona lore

Golf Channel

Two lines of banners converge across the street from the McKale Center.

On one side of 1 National Championship Drive, there are flags marking each of Arizona’s team national titles. On the other side, a line of banners display prominent student athletes.

A flag showing Haley Moore sits right at the corner of both lines.

Moore’s proximity to immortal athletic achievement was realized Wednesday, when the junior stepped up to give Arizona women’s golf its third NCAA national championship.

Standing on the 18th hole putting green at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Moore sunk in a playoff birdie putt to capture Arizona the title over Alabama.

Moore, Arizona’s top ranked golfer, served as the anchor to the five-member team in Wednesday’s championship match.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats were considered heavy underdogs to No. 2 seed Alabama, who had been the top-ranked team heading into the NCAA’s.

Team seeds and individual rankings lost all importance once Arizona advanced to match play quarterfinals late Monday.

On Tuesday, the Wildcats stunned UCLA in the quarterfinals, then beat Stanford in the semis to reach the championship match against Alabama.

The Crimson Tide went with their strongest three players to start the match, hoping to clinch the event before Moore’s round finished.

That plan went astray early on, as Arizona’s Yu-Sang Hou jumped out to a big lead over Alabama’s Lauren Stephenson.

Hou, a freshman who joined the team midseason after the departure of Krystal Quihis, took advantage of a bad day from Stephenson.

Stephenson was an All-American and ranked No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, but she faltered midway through the match.

Hou extended her lead to four strokes and eventually won 4&3.

In the second pairing, Alabama All-American Kristan Gillman handedly beat Arizona’s Gigi Stoll 4&3.

The Crimson Tide put out another All-American, Cheyenne Knight, in the three spot to face Bianca Pagdanganan.

Pagdanganan’s miracle eagle putt on the last hole of stroke play was what put Arizona into match play contention.

However, Pagdanganan never even reached the 18th hole Wednesday, losing her match 4&2.

Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas had to win her match in order to give Moore a shot at closing the title.

Nordaas entered the match coming off the biggest win of her collegiate career when, a day earlier, she shocked Stanford’s Olympic stalwart Albane Valenzeula in a run-away defeat.

That confidence carried through to Wednesday, as Nordaas held off Alabama’s Angelica Moresco on the 18th hole to win her match 1UP.

As Nordaas finished off her win, Moore teed off on the 18th hole alongside Lakareber Abe of the Crimson Tide.

Moore and Abe volleyed for the lead across the back nine until No. 17, when an errant shot by Abe gave Moore an easy point.

On the par-five 18th, Abe went with a more aggressive tee-shot placing her ball some 40 yards beyond Moore’s on the fairway.

Abe’s second shot reached the green and put her within striking distance of an eagle while Moore needed a third shot just to reach the green.

Moore missed her birdie attempt and settled for par, leaving Abe with two attempts to win the hole. Abe missed the eagle but nailed a short birdie to send the match to a playoff.

Back at the 18th tee box, Moore and Abe first shots both found the fairway. Moore’s next shot put her in the rough right at the back of edge of the green, while Abe found a bunker in front of the hole.

Both Moore and Abe sent their next chip-shots to within 10 feet of the hole. Abe, further away, putted first and missed her birdie attempt.

That set up Moore’s title-winning putt.

Arizona became the fourth straight different Pac-12 school to win a national title since the championship event switched to Match Play in 2015. Arizona is also the first school to ever win the title as a No. 8 seed.

The championship marks Arizona’s third all-time in women’s golf, the previous two coming in 1996 and 2000.

It is also Arizona’s first team national championship since baseball won the College World Series in 2012.