A healthy Rachel Heck is again leading Stanford at NCAA Women’s Golf Championship

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Last week, Stanford coach Anne Walker walked up to Rachel Heck in the 18th fairway.

“I’m going to take this last walk with you,” Walker told Heck. “I didn’t think we’d get to take this walk again.”

Heck, a senior for the Cardinal, has dealt with numerous injuries throughout her career. In 2023, she had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which involved removing her first rib. She made a run in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Bel-Air in Los Angeles but hardly played in the Cardinal lineup this year because of flare-ups from the injury. Over the winter, she thought her college career was over.

Last week, she captured her ninth collegiate title, winning the NCAA Cle Elum Regional. Walker joined Heck, who was unaware of her position on the leaderboard, and the duo enjoyed one last walk up the 18th as Heck went to secure another trophy in her storied career.

“It was a very emotional week,” Heck said. “She was crying, I was crying. I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t play again, and I definitely didn’t think I would win again, let alone a postseason championship. So it was really special to end like that.”

Heck, the 2021 NCAA individual champion, is in the lineup for Stanford making the final start of her college career this week at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship at Omni La Costa’s North Course, where Stanford is in a familiar position after two rounds. The Cardinal sit at 6 under, in third place midway through the second around.

Stanford has won the stroke-play portion of the NCAA Championship the last three seasons. And they’re in position to do so yet again with Heck making a big impact. She’s 1 under after two rounds, as Stanford chases its second title in three years.

“I didn’t expect it, but I’m not surprised by it,” Walker said of Heck’s late-season run. “The kid’s barely competed. She has been through a lot, and she’s not able to get the same reps, very limited in how many range balls she can hit.”

Megha Ganne and Paula Martin Sampedro, one of 10 on the final watch list for the Annika Award, pace the Cardinal at 2 under. Heck is a shot back, and Sadie Englemann is at even-par after 36 holes.

Of teams to tee off in the morning wave Saturday, Stanford trails only Texas A&M heading into the third round. After Sunday, the field will be cut to the top-15 teams for Monday’s final round of stroke play. Then, the top eight after Monday will earn a spot in match play, which begins Tuesday.

Expect Stanford to be one of those teams, and in big part thanks to Rachel Heck’s resurgance.

“It’s good to take a step back this week and think about how far I’ve come,” Heck said. “It’s really special to be here. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to play for Stamford again. Just happy to be here. Soaking up every second of it.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek