ALLENDALE, Mich. – Nova Southeastern claimed its third consecutive national championship on Saturday. The Sharks carded a four-round 1,157 (+5) on the 6,111-yard, par-72 The Meadows course.

NSU
Collins

“When we had our first team meeting back in the fall of this year, we talked about the perfect finish,” head coach Kevin Marsh said. “We really wanted to see one of our seniors hit the final putt at nationals and that’s exactly what happened. The motivation for entire year was for that perfect finish. With Taylor, Sandra and Abbey finishing in the top three, that was the perfect finish we were looking for from the very beginning.”

Not only did NSU claim their third straight team title, but for the second year in a row a Shark player laid claim to the individual national title as well. Many expected the four-time PING/NGCA Player of the Year Sandra Changkija to walk away with the individual title this year, especially since she won it in 2010. However, it was NSU’s Taylor Collins’ record-setting performance that stole the show as she posted an NCAA Division II Championship record for best score in relation to par after four rounds with a 10 under 278. The previous record was held by Rollins’ Joanna Coe set in 2008.

“I think what a lot of people forget is that Taylor is a First-Team All-American and one of the top-three Division II players in the country,” Marsh said. “I expected her to have the best finish of her career at nationals, but she has also put in a ton of work to get there. Today, and throughout this tournament, she proved that to everyone by winning the individual title.”

The journey began four years ago, when the four seniors, Changkija, Collins, Fredrika Hakansson and Nicole Whitmore arrived at NSU’s campus as freshmen in the fall of 2007. Little did they know that their collegiate careers together would result in three consecutive national titles. In their first year together, the quartet finished the 2008 spring season as the national runner-up to Rollins. In 2009, the chemistry continued to grow and it resulted in Nova Southeastern’s first national championship. Abbey Gittings then joined the crew in 2010 and helped NSU to their second consecutive championship.

In their last season together as a team, the four seniors and lone sophomore saved their best performance for last by becoming only the third Division II squad to win three consecutive national titles in Division II championship history. Along the way, the team set two NCAA Division II Championship team records. The first came on the opening day of the tournament when the team posted a championship record for best score in relation to par after one round with a five under 283. At the conclusion of the four-day championship, they set yet another NCAA Division II Championship record with the best score in relation to par after four rounds with a five over 1,157.

“It’s hard to believe this all started four years ago in Houston when these four freshmen finished as the national runner-up in the 2008 national tournament,” Marsh said. “It was then we knew we had a special group. I don’t think I will ever come across another group of individuals like them in my coaching career. They have a great mix of talent and it was exciting to see them together again finishing their collegiate careers with a third national title.”

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Team Leaderboard
Individual Leaderboard

In the final round of the 2011 Championship, the 72-player field faced the unrelenting challenge of cold weather and high winds, which were reflected in the scores. But that wasn’t much of a factor for NSU. In the previous three rounds, the Sharks built up at 27-stroke lead on the 12-team field and were in the driver’s seat heading into the final round. Despite a fourth round 300 (+12), NSU cruised to a 28-stroke win with a four round 1,157 (283, 291, 283, 300), +5.

In addition to Collins’ NCAA championship and course records as an individual, probably the next most impressive accomplishment was Collins, Changkija and Gittings claiming the top three individual spots in the tournament. Heading into the final championship round, Collins was the individual leader at 13 under par with rounds of 68, 69 and 66. Battling the course conditions on the last day, she finished with a final round of 75 (+5), but held on to win the individual title by eight strokes with a 10 under 278.

Sitting in third coming into Saturday’s championship round, Changkija posted the day’s lowest score with a three under 69. She moved up one spot to finish second overall with a four round 286 (-2). After three consecutive under par rounds to start the tournament, Gittings did not hit a single birdie in the final round and finished at four over 76 on Saturday. Her four round score was still under par at 287 (-1), but she dropped one spot finishing third overall. All three of NSU’s top individuals were the only players to shoot under par golf for the entire championship.

Both Hakansson and Whitmore rounded out the Sharks’ “fab” five finishing tied for 27th and 36th respectively. Hakansson turned in a four round score of 308 (+20), while Whitmore finished with a four round 314 (+26).

The top three teams in the 2011 national championship were from the Sunshine State Conference. Behind NSU’s national championship run, No. 4 Rollins claimed the national runner-up spot with a four-round 1,185 (+33), while No. 2 Florida Southern finished third with a four round 1,196 (+44). Since 1996, the Sunshine State Conference has had 12 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf National Champions, including the last 11. NSU now has three titles (2009, 2010, 2011), Rollins has the most at five (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008), Florida Southern has won four (2000, 2001, 2002, 2007) and Lynn has claimed one title (1996). No. 3 Tarleton State (1,206) finished fourth and No. 7 St. Edward’s (1,234) finished fifth to round out the top five.