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Off injured list, Rachel Heck returns to Stanford lineup for NCAA Championship

Stanford has received an unexpected boost entering its defense at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship.

Once thought to be without two of its most integral players for the remainder of the season, the Cardinal will begin play Friday at Grayhawk Golf Club with junior Rachel Heck in the starting lineup and senior Brooke Seay as the substitute.

Heck hasn’t played for Stanford since its home event in late October as she was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and opted to undergo surgery in early March to remove a rib to help fix the issue. Seay has also been out all spring while recovering from a concussion, though she did play the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where she beat just one player in the 72-person field.

Without Heck and Seay competing, Stanford hasn’t let go of its No. 1 national ranking this spring, winning three of five events, including the NCAA Pullman Regional last week. Sophomore Rose Zhang has won seven of her nine starts this season, giving her 11 titles for her career.

This is the second postseason where Heck hasn’t been 100% health-wise. Last season, she missed Pac-12s and the last two rounds of regionals with illness. She returned to help the Cardinal to last year’s NCAA team title.

Stanford’s starting lineup for this week’s championship will be, in order, Zhang, junior Sadie Englemann, freshman Megha Ganne, freshman Kelly Xu and Heck. The Cardinal’s first round begins off No. 10 at 11:30 a.m. local time, and they will be paired with No. 2 Wake Forest and No. 3 LSU.