“It’s just all worth it now’’ after 33 years
The University of Washington’s dramatic win in the NCAA national championship probably meant more to Mary Lou Mulflur than any other. Mary Lou has been the university’s women’s golf coach for 33 years. The story below appeared on the university’s website.
By Mason Kelley
Last season, the Washington women’s golf programme had to “hunker in the bunker.”
The Huskies, ranked No 1 in the nation at the time, had so much success, their top two players – Soo Bin Kim and Jing Yan – turned professional.
This year, it was time for the team to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.”
It hasn’t always been easy but, over the course of two years, the Huskies (the nickname given to the university’s sports teams) have reached the pinnacle of their sport and, along the way, have had as much fun as any team in the nation.
What other programme, in the midst of a championship run, would risk its focus to spend some time flinging a football?
Well, when you’ve been coaching your alma mater (school) for 33 years like Mary Lou Mulflur, you pick up a few tricks of the trade. She has found a way to mould elite golfers who enjoy what they do.
So, it only seemed fitting that, on Thursday afternoon, it was Mulflur who drove the bus that brought University of Washington home after claiming a national championship the previous day at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregan.
“This is your life achievement,” Mulflur said.
“It’s why you do what you do. All of the tough times, the heartache, practicing in the rain, this and that, it’s just all worth it now. I couldn’t be happier.
``These guys have just been unbelievable this year. It was kind of a fitting end.”
As the bus pulled up – the championship trophy buckled safely in one of the seats – the band blared and Harry the Husky danced in the middle of a road lined with fans, athletes from other sports and athletic department staff members.
As Mulflur stepped out of the driver’s side door and started through a gauntlet of hugs, the athletes hoisted the trophy. They continued a celebration that started a day earlier.
Mulflur’s coach at Washington, Edean Ihlanfeldt, sat on the back of a golf cart and, after the two embraced, Mulflur climbed up to get a view of the crowd.
Then she threw her arms in the air, striking a power pose in a white national champions tee-shirt.
After thanking those gathered, and her players, she tried to find the words to explain a moment that was still sinking in. She closed with a nod to Washington’s athletic director, Jennifer Cohen, who had the interim tag removed just hours before the Huskies’ championship match started.
“This one’s for you, babe,” Mulflur said with a smile.
After a few more hugs, Mulflur stepped away from the crowd. She talked about a tumultuous two years that led to the ultimate payoff.
“We were so disappointed with our outcome last season,” Mulflur said. “But everything happens for a reason. I think it kind of prepared us for this moment.”
Mulflur described the last day of Washington’s championship run as “ridiculous.”
From Ying Luo – who holed-out to win her match and cap her senior season in dramatic fashion – to Julianne Alvarez – who was fearless as a freshman (first year student), hitting clutch shots with history on the line – Mulflur expects people to continue talking about the final day of the 2016 NCAA women’s golf season for years to come.
“It’s unreal,” Mulflur said.
“Now people know there’s women’s golf in college. For people to be able to see the shots these kids hit under the most extreme pressure they’ve ever been under and to execute the way they did is just absolutely unreal.”
Luo said she’s watched her final collegiate shot “about a 100 times.” She continues to be surprised each time it goes in. The feeling of elation is renewed each time she pushes play and watches the ball drop into the cup.
“I still cannot believe it,” Luo said.
“I still don’t know how it went in. It’s incredible. I’m so happy right now.”
While Luo and others signed autographs, Alvarez looked back on the defining moment of her freshman season.
“I’ve had a day, but it’s still so surreal,” Alvarez said.
“I still can’t believe we won and what we’ve achieved as a team. It’s amazing. It means so much to us, for us to win for our seniors and for us to win for coach was really special.”
In the final moments of Washington’s victory, nothing came easy. The Huskies had to hit tremendous shots in pivotal moments but, like Mulflur said, after everything this team has been through the past two seasons, the programme’s championship finish provided a fitting end to an incredible season.
“It was a fairytale,” Mulflur said. “It was awesome.”