Methodist claims third place at NCAAs
The Monarchs' long-standing title streak comes to end
DESTIN, Fla. -- The streak is over.
One of college sports’ most memorable runs ended at the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championships, with a team not named Methodist celebrating on the 18th green.
It was Mary Hardin-Baylor with the triumph against second-place Texas-Tyler and third-place Methodist, the latter of which saw its consecutive DIII title streak broken at 15. No other team had won it since 1997.
“I played all I had,” said senior All-American Jenny Sullivan, who finished fourth in individual competition. “If I said I could give more, I’d be lying. I gave it all I could and we just came up short. But they always have next year. They can start all over again.”
That seemed the theme as the final round ended at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The women had played all four rounds on the resort’s Baytowne course, and Mary Hardin-Baylor had led each one.
Top-ranked and perennial defending champion Methodist never found firm footing, sitting third after Tuesday’s first round and Wednesday’s second round, and fourth after Thursday’s third round. The Monarchs did rally past George Fox on Friday to finish third. And, rallying is in their blood.
Last year, at the Zollner Golf Course in Angola, Ind., Sullivan clinched the 2012 NCAA title with a birdie on 18, helping the Monarchs beat DePauw by six strokes. However, there was no rally this time around.
“Those girls behind me are itching,” Sullivan said. “I graduated Saturday so I am out, but I mean, we have those girls trained, year after year after year. They know what to expect and how to do it. It’s not lack of preparation, it just didn’t happen this year.”
Methodist served as the host institution for the men’s and women’s NCAA championships at Sandestin, a fact that head coach Tom Inczauskis says helped because the team’s support system was in place.
“Being the host we had high expectations,” he said. “And I know we came in ranked No. 2, but we had a great year. We won six out of nine events that we played and the lowest scoring average in the country.”
That was a 313 scoring average. The Monarchs began their latest title defense shooting a collective 316, Inczauskis said, and scores ballooned. Still, Inczauskis took the fact that his team had to fight as a good sign.
“It’s a great time for Division III golf,” he said. “We’re aware that the streak is coming to an end and we’ve been happy to be part of it. We still have our streak intact of 28 consecutive national championship appearances, so we’d like to keep that going.
“But you know, we had our troubles this week so we’ve been coming to terms with it the last couple of days. We really had a chance on Day 2 to put a dent in there and we had trouble coming in the house."
It didn’t matter whether Methodist finished a daily round on the front or back nine; players tripped themselves, carding eye-popping and uncharacteristic scores on the final holes.
“My teammates can play golf better than anyone I know,” Sullivan said. “Sixteen holes through, they’re phenomenal players. The last two holes, it got us this year. We’ve had doubles and triples coming in. It’s tough to come back from that. You run out of holes. Those girls birdie more than anyone I know. When you decided to make the big numbers on the last two holes, you run out of holes.”
Inczauskis says he anticipated trouble. Mary Hardin-Baylor won the Jekyll Island Invitational, in Jekyll Island, Ga. in March, from a field that included Methodist.
But, he says, that trouble is good for the sport.
“We’re excited for Division III golf,” Inczauskis said. “The numbers are getting better, the players are getting better, the quality of the talent, the number of teams that are out there.”
“We used to win by 80, but now it’s not like that,” Sullivan said. “The girls have all stepped up. Division III golf is not just Division III golf anymore. It is girls that have DI offers playing DIII golf and they’re all phenomenal. It’s just gotten tougher. Not that it’s a bad thing. It just makes the sport better.”
And watch out in 2014, Inczauskis says. He’ll have seven seniors who clearly remember “the streak.”
“Next year we’ll have to start it again and we’ll start at one,” he said.