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Reigning champion Wildcats fall in NCAA women’s golf semifinals

Ryan Colton, NCAA Division I Women's Golf Committee chair, center, watches as Duke women's golf coach Dan Brooks, left, shakes hands with Wake Forest women's golf coach Kim Lewellen after completing the parings for the final round of an NCAA college golf tournament, Wednesday, May 23, 2019, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Duke freshman Gina Kim drilled a fairway bunker to 2 feet for birdie on the final hole that secured a 1-up victory and sent her team into the title match against Wake Forest in the NCAA women’s championship.

Duke ended Arizona’s bid to win back to back titles and also wrapped a two-year run of Arizona state universities winning the women’s title — Arizona State won the championship in 2018.

It came down to the final two matches. Yu-Sang Hou of Arizona had lost three straight holes to Miranda Wang of Duke and was clinging to a 1-up lead on the par-3 17th when Hou holed a bunker shot to win.

The matches were tied at 2, and Bianca Pagdanganan had just tied the final match with Kim by making a 15-foot birdie putt on 15th hole. Kim answered with a birdie on the 16th to regain the lead, and the Duke freshman remained 1 up playing the 18th.

Kim hit into a bunker off the tee, while Pagdanganan blasted a drive down the middle to set up a short iron. Kim’s shot from the sand landed on the edge of the green and rolled out to 2 feet. At that point, Pagdanganan likely would have had to hole her fairway shot, and she nearly did. The ball spun back next to Kim’s ball.

In the other semifinal, Kupcho never trailed in a 6-and-4 victory over Kaleigh Telfer of Auburn, while Emilia Migliaccio had an even easier time, winning in 13 holes over Brooke Sansom of Auburn. Any chance Auburn had to rally, as it did against Texas in the quarterfinals, ended when Letizia Bagnoli of Wake Forest made birdie on the 18th for a 1-up victory.

Wake Forest, led by Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Jennifer Kupcho, had an easy time in its semifinal victory over Auburn by winning four matches and halving the other. That set up an all-ACC championship match Wednesday afternoon at Blessings Golf Club.

Wake Forest won the ACC championship last month, with Duke finishing 18 shots behind in third place. The Demon Deacons have never won an NCAA title in women’s golf, while Duke goes for its seventh national title, but first since it switched to match play in 2015.

The NCAA was playing the semifinals and championship matches on the same day because of a six-hour rain delay on Tuesday.

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