Mary Hardin-Baylor clinches NCAA crown to end Methodist's 13-year reign
DESTIN, Fla. -- Mary Hardin-Baylor trumped its competition in the 2013 Division III Women’s Golf Championship at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, leading wire-to-wire and establishing a new era of excellence.
The Cru beat second-place Texas-Tyler by eight strokes and third-place Methodist by 20. The latter is especially significant; Mary Hardin-Baylor’s victory snapped Methodist’s longtime championship chokehold. No other women’s program had won a DIII golf title since 1997.
“That just speaks volumes of how good these girls are,” Mary Hardin-Baylor head coach Darla Kirby said. “Methodist is just such a great team and competed to the very end. We were just very fortunate that we were able to get a few strokes on them each day. And that was the difference for us. You’re not going to blow away Methodist in one round.”
UT-Tyler freshman Laura Lindsay prevailed in individual competition, claiming low-medalist honors with a four-shot victory against George Fox senior Kelsey Morrison, the DIII Player of the Year.
“It’s crazy,” Lindsay said. “This week’s been a whirlwind. It’s surpassed anything I ever expected. We were just excited to come to Florida, and then to show up. And I shot 72 the first day and then just to win it, come out and finish like on top every single day, feels really good. And I’m really proud of my team, too. We played awesome this week.”
The Cru opened play with a seven-shot lead against UT-Tyler and 15 against Methodist, but King says it felt like half a stroke most of the day.
“We came out and we felt the pressure,” Kirby said. “It took us a while to just relax a little bit ... And then at the end, we were just trying to hang on. UT-Tyler really made a run at us, but the girls hung tough and that’s what you have to do to win a national championship and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Mary Hardin-Baylor’s triumph was more coronation than surprise. Led by freshman Elizabeth Davis, the Cru had finished the first round with a three-shot lead against UT-Tyler. Kelly Gonyea and Taylor O’Rear were the team’s top scorers on Wednesday, with Gonyea carding a 76 and O’Rear a 79, helping Mary Hardin-Baylor forge a first-place tie with UT-Tyler. The Cru pulled away in the third round, widening the gulf between them and UT-Tyler and Methodist and leaving nerves as the only thing to defeat in the last round.
Kirby said the crux came at the turn on Sandestin’s Baytowne course, where the women played all four championship rounds. With UT-Tyler keeping pace, Kirby issued a warning at No. 9.
“They had some players that were really playing well and we had struggled on the front,” she said. “And then we just told the girls, if you would just make pars, then that puts pressure on them and they’ll make bogeys. We’ll just be making up strokes by them making bogeys and us making pars and that was what we tried to do.
“And, of course, nerves got to us a little bit. Went in the water a couple of times on [No.] 16, but were able to get out of there with a bogey and that was huge, and then just trying to stay together for the last two holes.”
Lindsay, playing in the day’s final pairing with UT-Tyler’s O’Rear and George Fox’s Morrison, had to quiet her own nerves. Although she’d led the individual standings since Tuesday, shooting 72-72-75 through three rounds, she also fought herself at certain points.
“I doubled number six and so I was pretty mad at myself,” Lindsay said. “And then I bogeyed number 10 and I was still pretty angry, and then I made a really good birdie putt on 12 and that calmed me down. And then I eagled 15 and that was kind of the ending of being freaked out.”
An appearance by the UT-Tyler men’s team, which won the DIII title several hours before urged her on.
“One of my good friends in Tyler asked me if I could win the tournament,” Lindsay said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t think so, I haven’t been hitting the ball really well. It’s going to be a really good field.’ And then I came out and did it.”