AJGA alumna and Stanford University freshman Rachel Heck claimed the NCAA Women's individual national championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 24.
After shooting a total 8-under-par 280, Heck became the first Cardinal ever to win the title. Heck entered the final round with a five-stroke lead over teammate and fellow AJGA alum Angelina Ye. Over the course of the final round, Heck's lead shrunk to one after a bogey on the 12th hole over AJGA alum UCLA's Emma Spitz. Heck went on to par each of the last six holes to claim the title over Spitz who shot a total 7-under-par 281.
Heck also joins an elite group of players who have swept the NCAA Division I postseason. Marisa Baena (Arizona, 1996) and AJGA alum Annie Park (USC, 2013) are the only other players to win the Pac-12 Championship, NCAA Regionals, and NCAA Individual Championship in the same season.
With Heck's win, seven of the nine freshman who have won NCAA Women's Division I Individual titles are AJGA alumni. Overall, Heck is the 30th AJGA female alum to win the title, and the eighth-consecutive AJGA alum to win in the past nine years (the championships were not held in 2020).
Heck won three AJGA tournaments and had 17 additional top-five finishes during her junior golf career (2014-2019). The five-time Rolex Junior All-American won the 2015 AJGA Huntsville Junior, 2017 Rolex Girls Junior Championship and 2018 Polo Golf Junior Classic. In 2017, Heck was named the Rolex Junior Player of the Year.
Heck is no stranger to Grayhawk Golf Club. She competed four times at the AJGA's former Thunderbird International Junior from 2016-2019. Her top finishes were runner-up in 2017 and 2018.
The AJGA hosted the Thunderbird International Junior from 2000 to 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The tournament, founded by Mike Kennedy, Del Cochran, and AJGA alumni and PGA TOUR pro Phil Mickelson, was known by many as one of the AJGA's most fun.
In addition to top competition and players, the Thunderbird International Junior gave the world's top players the opportunity to donate money to a charity of their choice and create lifelong friendships through fun social events. The tournament created an outmatched experience with options like personalized lockers, Masters-style scoreboards on the course, a unique trophy, milkshakes, ping pong, and more than 100 volunteers.
Many NCAA Women's Golf individual players have ties to the Thunderbird International Junior. Five of the top eight finishers competed at Grayhawk Golf Club as a junior with nine tournament appearances between them:
1. Rachel Heck of Memphis, Tennessee (Stanford)
3. Angelina Ye of Shanghai, China (Stanford)
4. Ashley Menne of Surprise, Arizona (Arizona State University)
T5. Hailey Borja of Lake Forest, California (Michigan)
T5. Gina Kim of Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Duke)
Heck, Ye, and Kim were all first team Rolex Junior All-Americans at some point in their junior careers, with Menne and Borja earning honorable mention Rolex Junior All-America awards.
From the field of 132 players at the NCAA Women's Championships:
90 total AJGA alumni
32 played in the Thunderbird International Junior at Grayhawk Golf Club as junior golfers