Following five straight Liberty League Championship victories, the NYU women’s golf team capped off its 2018-19 season by winning the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championship for the first time in program history.
“It was a great experience, I think,” Stern junior Navika Kuchakulla said. “We really tried because it was during finals week so it was literally blood, sweat and tears. I think that just by having a strong team and a good connection with everyone on the team, we were able to pump each other up, have a positive attitude and really fight on the last day.”
The Violets were rewarded for their impressive campaign — which resulted in six first-place finishes — with a No. 1 Division III national ranking by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.
“The women’s team got a lot better over the past couple years,” Stern sophomore Arshia Mahant said. “To be number one, it’s what we worked for over this past year, and what our coaches worked for over the past few years. I think it was really special and we want to carry that momentum for that season.”
Kuchakulla and Mahant played vital roles in the team’s success last season. Kuchakulla was named the 2018-19 University Athletic Association Co-Player of the Year and she finished with the best score in the Violets’ first place finish in the Liberty League Championship, which gave the team an automatic ticket to the NCAA Championship. In the final round of the Championship, NYU was eight strokes behind Williams College until Mahant sparked the team’s comeback. She finished her round with a three-under par 69, just one stroke off the tournament record. The Violets posted a combined 294 on the final day, which tied for the lowest score in NCAA Championship history.
“It was a really great comeback from all my teammates,” Mahant reflected. “And it was very unexpected so it was obviously very special as well.”
This year’s team features five returning players including captains Kuchakulla and CAS senior Arisa Kimura. Mahant is studying abroad in London for the fall season, but is focused on improving her game for the spring season.
“I went back home in the summer in New Delhi, India to practice in my home club, the Delhi North Club,” Mahant said. “I also played in a couple summer amateur tournaments, but mainly, I worked with my coach, and he’s a really big part of how my game shaped up.”
With underclassmen accounting for half of the team, newly-appointed co-captain Kuchakulla is ready to step up as a leader and continue to foster the team chemistry that was crucial in last season’s championship run.
“I love to help the freshmen out and I want them to feel at home at NYU and on the golf team so helping them, I can help them enjoy it,” she said. “There is a little bit of pressure because I have to be a leader on and off the course, but I have that ability to do that.”
If Kuchakulla is feeling the pressure, she’s surely not showing it. This past weekend, the Stern junior took home first place at the St. Lawrence Invitational in Canton, NY, and set a program record with a two-round score of two-under-par 142 (70-72) on her way to helping the Violets finish in first place at the tournament.
Head Coach Brad Johnson is in his fourth season in charge of both the men’s and women’s golf teams. Since his arrival at NYU, Johnson’s teams have appeared in five NCAA tournaments, culminating in last season’s title run with the women. Following a remarkable start to his career at NYU, Johnson looks to continue this tradition of success.
“We came off a big win last year and I think we have the team to do it again this season,” Johnson said. “My ultimate goal for the women’s team is to win the National Championship again.”
Email Arvind Sriram at [email protected]