The final day of the NCAA Division II West Regional women’s golf tournament proved to be the most thrilling of the three-day event at Hillcrest Golf Club in Durango.
Dallas Baptist University did what was expected of the top-ranked team in the region and national title contender, as the Patriots captured the team title with a wire-to-wire win, but it wasn’t without a strong push from West Texas A&M in the third round that saw DBU come away victorious by six shots with a score of 901.
“Obviously we’re excited to win, and any time you win a regional with 10 teams ranked in the top 25 it’s special. Especially on this golf course,” DBU head coach Kenny Trapp said. “We didn’t putt very well, especially early. We kept missing short putts, but we hung in there.
“I knew West Texas and Cal Baptist started hot, but on this golf course it kind of comes back to you. I knew as long as we kept making pars we’d be OK. And our girls never gave in. They’ve played well all year and I’m super, super excited for them. This is a huge win for us going into nationals.”
DBU was the national runner-up in 2017 after the Patriots finished one shot back of Barry University.
West Texas A&M and California Baptist placed second and third with scores of 907 and 909, respectively, to qualify for the national championship tournament next week at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston.
While the Patriots led from start to finish in the team race, the individual’s portion of the tournament had a bit of everything from the field before it ended with Kate Goodwin of Oklahoma Christian and Holly Winter of West Texas A&M being crowned co-champions with 7-over-par 223s.
Goodwin, who qualified for the tournament as an individual, teed off at 10:20 a.m. and was six shots off the 36-hole lead of California Baptist’s Jocelyn Chee at 3-over. But the junior from Tulsa, Oklahoma, took advantage of perfect conditions in the morning with birdies on four of the first five holes to get into contention.
“I was teeing off on 10 both days before, so I was not looking forward to teeing off on one,” Goodwin said. “But I hit a great shot, then a better shot into the green and birdied. Then I ran a 30-foot birdie putt in on two, so after that I knew it was going to be a good day. I settled into a good groove and let it happen.
“The pins were in some easier places today, so it made for a fun round. I thought I shot myself out of it after a 78 (on Monday), so I came out and said, ‘Have fun, and don’t worry about it anymore.’”
About the time Goodwin made birdie at No. 5, Winter teed off on No. 1 and was five shots back of Chee. She made par on the first hole before birdies at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to get to 4-over for the tournament.
Goodwin made the turn at 4-under for the round, bogeyed No. 10, but got the shot back with a birdie on the par-3 12th before a double bogey on No. 16 and pars on 17 and 18 to finish with a 2-under 70 – one of only two under-par rounds of the tournament – and was the leader in the clubhouse at 7-over.
Winter made the turn at 3-under for the round after a bogey at No. 7 and a birdie on the par-3 ninth. After another birdie on No. 10 and back-to-back pars at Nos. 11 and 12, she held a three-stroke lead.
“I was definitely a little nervous – I could feel the nerves starting to come,” Winter said of the back nine. “I made some really good par saves on 15 and 16, and that kind of helped me get back into it and get focused.”
But the sophomore from New Zealand started to move backward, as she played the final six holes at 4-over, including a lip-out par putt from about five feet on 18 that had her finish 7-over for the tournament.
Goodwin and Winter were ready for a sudden-death playoff to determine the champion, but since both players had qualified for the national championships, the tournament committee deemed the two co-champions.
“Well, I don’t have a very good playoff record, so I was kind of nervous,” said Goodwin, who finished her round close to two hours before Winter. “We went up and got all my stuff, and I thought I was actually ready to go, but once we figured out we didn’t have to play I relaxed and it was wonderful after that. And it’s great sharing it with another good golfer, too.”
Goodwin shot rounds of 78-75-70 at the tournament, while Winter fired rounds of 75-76-72.
DBU’s Evelyn Arguelles, who played the final round with Winter, finished one shot off the lead after the sophomore from Mexico missed a slippery downhill putt from about four feet away on No. 17 that left her with a double bogey. She shot 76-73-75.
DBU’s Addison Mitchell, who started the third round one shot of the lead of Chee, finished tied with Arguelles one shot back after shooting 72-76-76. Mitchell had won the Regional Preview tournament at Hillcrest in September.
Chee, who was 3-over after 36 holes, fell off in the third round to finish tied for 12th at 229 after rounds of 73-74-82.
Casey Wild of Tarleton State finished fifth overall with a 225 after she shot 74-78-73, and Emily Brennan of Midwestern State was sixth after rounds of 74-78-74 for a 226. Both earned spots as individuals at the national championships.
Sofia Ruescas of St. Mary’s University posted the low round of the tournament with a 3-under 69 Wednesday. She shot 81-81 in the first and second rounds.
West Texas A&M qualified for the national championship last season and finished fourth.
“This is our third year in a row, and it’s just great to make it,” West Texas A&M head coach Meredith Jameson said. “What’s really great about our team moving into the national tournament is that any one of our girls can be the No. 1 player on any day.”
While Dallas Baptist and West Texas A&M are making it back to the big stage, this season’s national tournament bid snaps a long streak of close calls for California Baptist.
“We’ve been in this position before, and I’m so happy that they held on,” California Baptist head coach Marc Machado said. “Three years ago we got fourth (at the regional), two years ago fifth, and last year fourth and lost by one shot for third.
“Last year was a heartbreaker – everyone was crying. We used that as a motivator and I’m just so proud of them. It’s so hard in women’s golf to get to the national championships, only 12 teams advance. But they did what they had to do. They all held it together. Jocelyn helped us big in the first two rounds and kind of struggled today, but that’s been the M-O of this team, when someone falls someone else picks them up. I’m so proud of them.”