April 17, 2013
FRISCO - Lamar University began the final round of the Southland Conference Tournament four strokes behind leader Central Arkansas, but the Lady Cardinals roared back Wednesday in blustery conditions to earn their first league title in women's golf since 2006.
The Lady Cardinals closed the tournament from Frisco Lakes Golf Club with a 12-over-par total of 300 for a 54-hole score of 891 (+27) to finish seven strokes ahead of Oral Roberts and Sam Houston State who tied for second at 898 (+34).
"Our mindset was that we had to go out and win it because this golf course was playing easier than we're used to," said LU head coach Brian White about coming from behind. "We had to go out and shoot a good score. We played great yesterday (round 2) and today I said we're going to do the same thing. We're attacking, we're chasing, we're only four strokes back and we're the best team. If you do what you're supposed to do, we should be fine."
Lamar, which won Southland titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006, picked up its fourth conference crown to lead all league schools. Not only did Lamar win its fourth tournament title this year, but the Lady Cardinals also picked up the Southland Conference's automatic berth into the 2013 NCAA Golf Championship. It will be Lamar's third trip to NCAA Regionals as a team and first since 1995.
"I can't be more excited about going to the NCAA Tournament," said White. "Having won three other conference tournaments and the team not getting to move on was just such a shame. It's really exciting that they get to move on and have another chance to play."
Junior Katelyn McDougal played consistently all week on the par-72, 5,977-yard layout and led Lamar with a fourth place finish in the field of 35. McDougal opened the tournament Monday with a 75, followed with an even-par 72 and closed the tournament with a solid 74 for a three-round total of 221 (+5).
"I told the team, someone always steps up in conference," said White. "The top players usually play well, but someone steps up from the back of the lineup to help the team win. Katelyn did just that and was a big reason we won this championship."
McDougal, who finished 13th at last year's conference tournament, recorded eight birdies over the first two days. While not able to post a birdie Wednesday, McDougal was nearly flawless with 16 pars and a pair of bogeys to move up from an eighth place tie at the start of the final day.
"It's such a good feeling to help the team win the tournament," said McDougal. "I haven't really been playing well this season but to step up when it really matters is great. I can't wait to go to the NCAA's especially after the close call my freshman year. We finally deserve it."
Sophomore Nghi Ngo and senior Julie Aime have led the Lady Cardinals all year and the duo once again came up big with top 10 finishes. Ngo finished just one stroke behind McDougal in a tie for fifth place with a 6-over-par total of 222.
Ngo began her conference tournament with a 74 and added rounds of 72 and 76 for her eighth top 10 finish of the year. It took her until the final hole Wednesday, but Ngo tapped in for her only birdie of the final round to cap off an impressive finish.
Like Ngo, Aime also closed with a 76 to tie for eighth place with a 7-over-par total of 223. The two-time all-conference selection posted rounds of 75 and 72 heading into the final round as she picked up her eighth top 10 finish of the year.
"I didn't play that well today," said Aime, "but we only had four strokes to make up. We were treating it as a match play with Central Arkansas. I was dreaming about it Tuesday night and now it's like a dream come true. When I made my birdie on 18, and I knew we were going to win, I just started crying. It's amazing."
Playing in her final conference tournament, Aime posted three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey over her final round. The winner of three career individual titles, Aime finished in the top 10 at the Southland Conference Tournament for the third straight year.
"Julie deserves to move on to the NCAAs," said White about his senior golfer. "She's a great player and I'm proud of her. She's improved so much and become one of the best players we've ever had.
Freshman Taylor Stockton tied McDougal for low round honors on the final day with a 74. Stockton finished alone in 11th place with a 225 total (+9) which included scores of 75 and 76 over the first two rounds.
Stockton knocked her approach shot to within three feet on the par-4, 10th hole and converted the putt for her lone birdie of round 3. She would add three bogeys and 14 pars to register her third straight finish in the top 15.
Redshirt junior Lauren Van Gerven saved her best for last as she closed with a 4-over-par total of 76. Van Gerven, who like Aime is playing in her final Southland Tournament, also posted rounds of 83 and 80 to tie for 31st place with a 239 total (+23). Van Gerven recorded two birdies and six bogeys in the final round.
Sam Houston State's Shelby Hardy ran away with individual medalist honors by a conference tournament record score of 4-under-par 212. Vanessa Johnson of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and McNeese State's Lina Lagergren tied for second at 2-over-par 218.
UCA, which began the final round with the lead, closed with a 26-over-par 314 and finished fourth in the seven-team tournament with a 901 total (+37). The Islanders placed fifth at 905 (+41), followed by McNeese State (909) and Stephen F. Austin (941).