ANGOLA, Ind. — Apply immense pressure to rock and, rather than crumbling, it will yield a gem.
On Friday, Methodist was a rock.
Five women in hunter green shirts began the final round of the NCAA Championship with the weight of the school’s 14 consecutive national championships bearing down on them. They balanced the accomplishments of the more than 100 golfers that preceded them on a mere two-stroke lead over DePauw entering the final round.
With every drive, every putt, they endured the strain of not only trying to win a tournament, but keeping the NCAA’s longest active championship streak alive. But rather than eroding under the weight of a dynasty, Methodist’s efforts yielded a 15th consecutive trophy — another gem for their vast collection.
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|Day 1: Williams grabs early lead|
|Day 2: Methodist leads by one stroke|
|Day 3: Monarchs extend lead to two|
|Day 4: Methodist captures 15th consecutive title|
The Monarchs didn’t merely maintain their third-round lead — they extended it — defeating DePauw by six strokes after the Tigers pulled within one on the back nine.
“There’s a significant amount of pressure,” Methodist coach Tom Inczauskis said. “A senior always says when they finally win their last one, ‘Well, not on my watch.’ And turns it over to the next group. It’s very satisfying for us.”
A large crowd gathered behind the first tee box as the final five groups — each with a player from Methodist, DePauw and third-place Williams — took their first shots of the final day of competition. Parents wearing Methodist green, DePauw yellow and Williams purple chatted nervously between tee shots. Players clustered together in steely silence, not drifting between parents and friends as they had in earlier rounds. The three teams began the round separated by only seven strokes.
“I’m so nervous,” said Bill Giovannettone, father of Methodist sophomore Loretta Giovannettone. “I’m always nervous for her.”
Bill Giovannettone donned his baseball cap inside out — a look normally reserved for a baseball dugout yearning for a late-inning rally — as did four other Methodist fathers, swaying behind the tee box with lumps thick as golf balls in their throats.
“I was probably twice as nervous,” Loretta said.
But those nerves didn’t show. Giovannettone shot a 76, the best round fired by a Monarch on Friday.
Golf means enough to Methodist that the school’s president, Ben Hancock, came to cheer the Monarchs on through the last day of competition. He, too, inverted his white cap in a show of support.
“It’s a part of our community,” he said. “It’s a great tradition and it attracts a great group of men and women to our school.”
The players appreciated the support from parents and administrators alike given what was at stake during their final 18-hole sojourn of the season.
“There’s great pressure,” said Methodist sophomore Kelsie Carralero, who was named a first-team Division III All-American on Wednesday. “You don’t want to be that one team that goes back without the ring.”
When each of the five Monarch golfers strode off the 18th green, they wore the remnants of that pressure on their face. None smiled immediately after their final four-hour hike through the hills of Zollner Golf Course, worn down by the stress of keeping their reign unblemished. Even after junior Jennifer Sullivan drained a long birdie putt on 18 — the last of Methodist’s 1,242 shots through the four-day tournament — and the Monarch supporters roared, she couldn’t muster a smile.
After the shot, she pushed her bag down the cart path adjacent to the green and exhaled deeply, her cheeks puffing out wide. Her fingers crept under the bill of her cap to wipe the round’s sweat off her brow and breathed in heavier, shoulders heaving, eyes weary.
Methodist’s unrivaled success has roots in the school’s PGA golf management program. Many top Division III recruits, who want to build their careers around the sport even if they don’t have a chance at playing professionally, are lured to the school by the program. It was the primary reason that Giovannettone and Carralero said they came to the Methodist.
Why did Kelsey Magnine choose the school?
“The streak,” she said bluntly.
The senior’s final-round 77 helped ensure the streak wouldn’t be broken — not on her watch.