EAST MANATEE -- The seed was planted more than a year ago, and Mariah Stackhouse spent Tuesday night dreaming about making clutch shots to win a national championship.
Both came true Wednesday in front of a nationally televised audience and plenty more fans that flocked to The Concession Golf Club to watch Stanford claim its first women's golf national championship, 3-2, over Baylor.
"I kind of envisioned some kind of crazy finish with me having to hit huge shots," said Stackhouse, a Stanford junior.
Stackhouse, a two-time All-American, made sure her dreams were prophetic, even when it seemed unlikely the Cardinal were going to make history.
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That's because Hayley Davis, Baylor's lone senior, was dormie with two holes to go in the anchor match to decide the first women's national title under match play.
But Stackhouse won the last two holes in regulation to send the match into a sudden-death playoff.
The first, the par-5 17th, required a pinpoint approach with her 3-hybrid from 209 yards.
Then on the 18th, Stackhouse dropped a pressure-packed birdie to turn the tide completely.
On the 10th, the first sudden-death playoff hole, Stackhouse made par and watched Davis three-putt from off the left of the green, missing a 5-footer that would have kept the match going.
"I've never been more excited about a couple of finishing holes," Stackhouse said. "I was, like, we've worked hard for this all year. It's do or die. There are two holes left. You've got to get through to even have an opportunity to win the championship. That's the kind of stuff you dream for as a golfer. Well, maybe you don't dream to be two-down and have to win the next two holes, but yeah, that for me was just, I think I kind of had the easier hand because I had to go for it versus protect."
The decision for Davis to putt rather than chip on the first playoff hole was due to having already putted from that position off the green earlier in the match.
"I actually hit it, I think, the same distance, but past the hole and the grass was growing the other way, so it was into the grain so I was, like, I don't really want to be chipping this one," Davis said. "I already putted it earlier so I knew the line. It was just had to get the pace."
Stanford head coach Anne Walker said she predicted her team would win its first national title at The Concession more than a year ago following last season's regional performance.
While Stanford celebrated, Davis was consoled behind the 10th green near the palm fronds by her teammates.
The Cinderella season culminated with a national runner-up performance for a Baylor squad that looked nothing like a postseason juggernaut following the first tournament of the season last September.
Baylor head coach Jay Goble, who spent five months as an assistant pro at The Preserve at Tara in East Manatee and was at IMG Academy for five years before getting into college coaching, arrived in Waco, Texas, determined to build a program.
And that building process continued throughout the fall as the Bears picked up steam, eventually winning its first spring tournament and rebounding from a No. 121 national ranking to knock off defending champion Duke in the semifinals before facing Stanford on Wednesday.
Davis was in control for most of the pivotal match, which included a shot that Goble called the best shot he's ever seen.
That came on the par-4 16th, which measures 410 yards.
The subsequent birdie gave her a 2-up lead with two to play.
"It was tough, because the thing was my feet were sinking a little bit, so I was a little bit worried about that, but then, yeah, just the way it went, it was perfect," Davis said.
Shannon Aubert went unbeaten in three matches for Stanford, defeating Baylor's semifinal hero, Lauren Whyte, 4-and-3.
Casey Danielson also went unbeaten in match play, notching the other point for Stanford when she knocked off Baylor's Laura Lonardi, 2-up.
The Bears received points from Dylan Kim, a 3-and-1 winner over Lauren Kim, and Giovana Maymon, who beat Quirine Eijkenboom, 4-and-3.
Now the focus will shift to the men's tournament, which begins Friday.
Several teams soaked in the action the final two days, including Stanford's men's team, which witnessed the Cardinal becoming the fourth program since 2000 to win its first women's golf national championship.