May 7, 2011

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AUBURN, Wash. --- Facing a five-stroke deficit on the 15th hole in the final round, Texas A&M head coach Trelle McCombs knew her team needed some good play and some good fortune to earn a trip to the 2011 NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championships.

McCombs got both.

The Texas A&M women's team got a trio of birdies from freshmen Katerina Ruzickova and Natalie Reeves and the Oregon Ducks came back to the Aggies, allowing them to earn an invitation to compete in the NCAA Championships on their home course later this month.

Even the ever-optimistic McCombs was starting to wonder if her team would be able to catch Oregon for the eighth and final qualifying spot.

"Absolutely," McCombs said. "Standing on the 15th teebox, we were nine shots back. We were just making too many big numbers. But with some help from some other players on some other teams, and Katerina making some birdies coming in and Natalie making a birdie on 16...it all came together. It was something that was out of our control, for sure. We're thankful to get through today and get back to our place for NCAAs."

With the comeback possible but improbable, Ruzickova faced a serpentine 30-foot birdie chance on the par-five 17th hole. The freshman from the Czech Republic read the line perfectly and sank the monster putt. Her Oregon opponent found the fairway bunker with her drive and ended with a triple bogey for a four-stroke swing in the standings.

A hole later, Ruzickova sank a testy four-foot putt on the 18th as the Aggies clinched their spot in the NCAA Championships.

Of her birdie putt on the 17th hole, Ruzickova said. "I tried to not think about it. As soon as it was my turn, I just wanted to do my routine and make a good roll. It stopped on the edge and I did my fist-pump just as it fell in. It was so close. Someone out there helped me make that putt."

The Aggies finished at 44-over and advance to the NCAA Championships from the West Regional with USC (+2), Tennessee (+12), Virginia (+23), UC Davis (+23), Arizona (+31), South Carolina (+38) and Washington (+41). The Aggies were 17-over on Saturday, and finished the regional with rounds of 301, 302 and 305.

Ruzickova finished the tournament in a tie for fifth place at 1-over with rounds of 73, 75 and 69 to pace the Aggies in the individual standings.

Of Ruzickova's strong play down the stretch, McCombs said, "It didn't surprise me. Nothing surprises me with Katerina. When she was five-over at the turn yesterday, I knew she was uncomfortable and that she would get herself back on track, which she did with a couple birdies on the back. She looks so solid today, made a bunch of pars and some birdies here and there, and put together a 69."

Also scoring for the Aggies on Saturday were senior Sarah Beth Davis tied for 45th at 20-over with rounds of 80-73-83.

"I think the pressure is off now," McCombs said. "Even though we tried to do everything to make sure that we just playing golf and not worrying about `getting home,' it was there. The pressure was there and you could definitely see it in the last two days. Now that we've made it, it will be `let's go play some golf.'"