Kelly Shon became the first Princeton women's golfer in 16 years to clinch a berth in the NCAA women's golf championship Saturday.
With another red round, her third in as many days in the tournament, Shon finished second in the field of 126 golfers at the NCAA East Regional at the Auburn University Club in Alabama.
"She played so well, and she did this against the kind of competition and under the same kind of conditions she's going to be facing in the next tournament," Princeton head coach Nicki Cutler said.
The top eight teams advance, and then the top two players not on one of those eight teams also get a bid to the NCAA finals. Those bids went to Shon, who shot a 71, 68 and 70 to finish at -7 for the weekend, and to Tennessee's Erica Popson, who defeated teammate Chessey Thomas and North Carolina's Jackie Chang in a playoff. That trio finished tied for eighth at 3-under.
Shon entered the day tied for fourth in the field. She bogeyed the first and third holes and made par on the rest of the front nine, but the back nine was where the Princeton junior made up ground. She birdied the 10th, 13th, 14th and 16th holes while making par on the rest after the turn.
Shon said the turning point of her round came on the ninth hole after coming up short on an approach shot on that par-4.
"I was frustrated, but I just decided to forget about my score and play for Princeton and for the people who are rooting for me back home," Shon said. "(The bid) means what it means. It means that I'm going to be playing in the NCAA Championship, and I know it's a big accomplishment."
Shon's finish is the highest ever for a Princeton women's golfer in an NCAA Regional. Mary Moan '97, who placed fifth at the NCAA East Regional hosted by Illinois State in 1997, tied for fifth at 13-over. Shon also beat her previous Princeton record for the best finish to par in an NCAA tournament, bettering the 6-over finish she had a year ago at the Penn State-hosted East Regional.
Alabama won the regional team title by eight shots over Tulane, and the Crimson Tide's Stephanie Meadow was the only player to finish higher than Shon, coming in at 13-under for the tournament. Meadow is ranked as the No. 2 college women's player in the country on the latest Golfweek list.
Moan, and now Shon, are the only Princeton players to play in the NCAA finals, whether as a team or an individual, since the program gained varsity status for the 1991-92 school year.
The NCAA finals will be hosted by Georgia May 21-24 at the Bulldogs' campus course.
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