FINDLAY, Ohio — Before this season, coach Shannon Sykora spoke openly and confidently that his Barry women's golf team had something special in the making.
He couldn't have been more spot on.
The No. 1 ranked Buccaneers overcame a two-stroke deficit in the final three holes to win the NCAA Division II National Championship by a stroke over No. 2 Dallas Baptist University Saturday at the par-72, 6,206-yard Findlay Country Club. Freshman Charlotte Puts made par on the 517-yard 18th to clinch the title. Her playing partner, Dallas Baptist's Ann Parmerter, made bogey, and the Bucs won their first national championship in women's golf.
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"I tried to stay calm until the end," Sykora said. "When Charlotte two-putted, it was the realization of a dream of mine for this team. We have a special group. They worked their butts off this year. Obviously, there's other good teams, too."
Dallas Baptist was certainly one of them.
The Bucs shot 301 in the final round for a 1,222 four-day championship-winning total. Dallas Baptist's 1,223 runner-up finish was nine strokes better than third place Indianapolis' 1,232 in the 12-team, 72-player field. Last year's champion and Barry's fellow Sunshine State Conference brethren, Rollins, finished sixth at 1,264.
Barry entered the final round with a three-stroke lead over Dallas Baptist. But the Patriots, who led the tournament through two rounds, erased the Bucs' lead midway through the day. The Bucs got within a stroke of the lead when Pare sank a 35-foot birdie putt on 18 after making a pair of huge up-and-downs on the par-4 16th and par-3 17th.
"Oh, that birdie was incredible," said Pare, who also birdied the 504-yard 15th as she settled into birdie-only mind focus mode, what with all the walking scoreboards around. "With all the scoreboards, I couldn't help myself. I looked at them pretty much the whole round."
Puts, who played the final 12 holes without a blemish, made birdie on the 166-yard 17th to pull the Bucs even with the Patriots. Larsson made par on the final hole to keep Barry in good position, and Puts was rock solid over the final 517 yards of real estate to seal the title.
"Honestly, I didn't know what was going on," Puts said, pleading innocence from scoreboard watching. "Only thing you can do is play your own game, and that's what I tried to do. I wanted to make as many birdies as I could. I made a really good putt on 17 that I was really happy with after I hit a nice tee shot. Then on the final hole, I knew where I stood, and that I had two putts, and that's what I did.
"It's an awesome feeling to win this championship with this team. To really do it is a special feeling. We stayed patient the whole four rounds because this tournament was not easy. We managed really well during the whole tournament, and we were really confident. I think we all did our own thing."