Vivian Tsui and Lindsay McGetrick both missed N.C. State’s graduation Saturday to play a round of golf.
“And I’m not too sad about it,” Tsui said, smiling.
Tsui and McGetrick were at Lonnie Poole Golf Course, competing for the Wolfpack in the third and final round of the NCAA Raleigh Regional. While both seniors were to receive their diplomas Saturday, they helped the Pack play its way into the NCAA Championship in Bradenton, Fla.
Seeded 11th in the 18-team regional field, the host Wolfpack surged on Saturday to finish third. Tsui’s 1-under 71 was the Pack’s best final-round score, but N.C. State got contributions from all five players during a 54-hole grind.
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“We pulled it off,” Tsui said. “This team has worked so hard for this. To see it all come together has been really exciting.”
The Wolfpack was 10th in the 2014 NCAA Championship, the best-ever finish for the program. N.C. State then was ranked 19th after the fall, only to lose its best player.
Before Christmas, Augusta James notified Wolfpack coach Page Marsh that she planned to turn pro. The senior from Canada, a three-time All-ACC selection, soon left to join the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit.
“You have to be resilient in life,” Marsh said. “I’m so proud of each of our players in how they learned to adapt and fill in. Everyone has a skill set they bring to a team, so when someone leaves there’s a void that has to be filled, and each of them has learned to step up and fill that.”
James led the Pack with a 72.44 stroke average in three fall tournaments. McGetrick was the leader in five spring tournaments with a 74.33 stroke average before the regional and Rachael Taylor, a junior from Germany, had a 75.73 average.
The Wolfpack was eighth in the ACC Championship last month at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro. Cecily Overbey, a freshman from High Point, had an opening 69 but the Pack never threatened as Virginia won the ACC title.
“This spring we had just not all played well on the same day,” Marsh said. “I kept saying it was going to happen, that it had to happen. And it did.”
South Carolina, ranked second nationally, was the top seed in the Raleigh Regional. But with Taylor carding an opening-round 69 Thursday, the Pack was in second place, two shots behind second-seeded LSU.
Then, a slide. On Friday, N.C. State’s 306 total was 16 shots higher as the Pack fell into a tie for sixth.
The top six teams advance from each regional to the NCAA Championship and the Wolfpack had some work to do Saturday.
“I knew they were disappointed but I reminded them it was a three-day event,” Marsh said. “I told them we were right there, with a chance to go play for a national championship.”
Taylor and Overbey backed up Tsui’s 71 with 72s and McGetrick had a 76 as the Pack, with an early tee time, posted a 291 total on another breezy day. Stephanie Pribonic struggled Saturday, but the sophomore from Wake Forest had a 74-76 start when Overbey was having problems the first two rounds -- the best four scores each day determine the team total.
“We came out fighting and kept fighting,” McGetrick said.
South Carolina won the regional by eight shots over Northwestern. Campbell finished sixth to also advance to the NCAA Championship, to be played May 22-27 at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton.
James has won on the Symetra Tour this spring and is the fourth-leading money winner. But the Pack survived and advanced without her.
McGetrick, a sport management major, attached a small, red mortarboard to one of her head-covers Saturday, a reminder of what she was missing.
“It was definitely worth it,” McGetrick said. “Now we’re super excited about nationals. Anything can happen.”