New Smyrna Beach, Fla. – After winning three consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference titles, the Stetson Hatters women’s golf team saw their streak come to an end on Wednesday when they finished fourth at the 2012 championship tournament.
Kennesaw State, which stormed into the lead in the second round, held on to win the championship at the Venetian Bay Golf Club, the program’s first-ever A-Sun title. The Owls finished in the top-four in the past three A-Sun Championships, but broke through the barrier to claim the top spot after a final round, 295 (+7). The Owls capped the three-day championship with an A-Sun record-low 871 (+7).
Stetson entered the final round 12 shots behind the Owls and never were able to get the momentum that was desperately needed to make a run at the title. The Hatters posted a 302 in the final round and finished at 26-over par for the event, 19 shots behind Kennesaw State.
“We played pretty good early,” Hatters coach Floyd Kerr said. “We were decent at the turn, but not in the position we needed to be in to make a run at it. We talked about needing everyone to go out and shoot 71 or better for us to have a chance. Now, I am not sure that would have even worked.”
East Tennessee State and Mercer turned in matching scores of 293 in the final round and finished in second and third place, respectively. The Bucs finished four shots behind Kennesaw State while the Bears finished nine shots off the pace.
The race for top individual honors was closer than the team competition. ETSU’s Gabriella Wahl survived a two-hole playoff with Mercer’s Lacey Fears after the duo tied through 54 holes at 213 (-3). Wahl fired a final round 73, while Fears shot 72 to set up the showdown between the two.
Wahl and Fears tied with pars on the opening hole before the Bucs’ freshman registered a par on the second hole to best Fears’ bogey. Wahl is the first freshman to win the A-Sun Championship since 2003 when Georgia State's Lisbeth Meincke accomplished the feat with a four-over-par performance.
“There was a lot of good play out there with East Tennessee and Kennesaw,” Kerr said. “Those teams played a really good tournament. I am not disappointed. We shot 890 for three days and had two really good days. We had a great year, even though it was not exactly the finish we wanted. If you look at it in its entirety, we had a good year.”
Stetson junior Alexandria Buelow, who was the two-time defending tournament champion, finished third. She missed out on making the final playoff a three-way race with a four-putt on the par five 17th hole on Wednesday. The double bogey left her two shots behind the leaders.
KSU’s Ket Preamchuen led the Owls’ charge to the team title finishing in fourth place (216; E), while Ines Lescudier carded a final round two-under par, 70, to claim fifth place and sit at one-over for the tournament. The Owls’ Lea Charpier joined the duo in the top-10 in a tie for seventh at three-over-par for the championship.
With Wahl’s top performance, the Bucs followed Kennesaw State in second place with a final total of 875 (+11). Wahl was joined in the top-10 by teammates Mayte Vizcarrondo (+2; 6th) and Sian Evans (219; T7th).
Fears’ effort guided Mercer to its best team total in program history (880; +16) at the A-Sun Championship and tied the 2007 squad for best team finish with third place. Sarah Louie Brown joined Fears in the top-10 with a four-over-par, 220, good for ninth place.
Stetson senior Lauren Cate claimed 10th place (221; +5) for the third top-10 showing in her career. Sophomores Sammie Smith (228; +12), Ryan Ashburn (229; +13) and Mallory Viera (230; +13) all earned top 20 finishes for the Hatters.
Jacksonville (926; +62) turned in its best showing since 2008 when the Dolphins also placed fifth. JU’s Natalie Schmett set the program record for lowest 18-hole score with a 69 on the final day of action. Belmont (932; +68) posted its best finish since 2008 with a sixth-place performance after turning in a team total of 303 on the final day to set the program record for lowest team score in 18 holes.
FGCU took seventh with a final round 319 to finish at 939 (+75). The Eagles’ top performer was Chelsea Guoynes in 14th place with a three-day total of 227 (+11). Lipscomb and USC Upstate trailed the Eagles in eight and ninth place, respectively, with totals of 951 (+87) and 954 (+90).
All that is left for Stetson this spring is to wait to see if Buelow receives the expected at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as an individual.
“There is no chance for the team to get an at large but, in my world, Alex should be a lock to get in as an individual,” Kerr said. “The low six players in the east not on regional teams should get bids and I have to believe that Alex is either first or second among those players.
“The six players from the east should be assigned to the East Regional, which will be in State College, Pa. Alex should be a lock and I told her that when we go, we are going with the intention of not stopping at regionals, but taking her all the way to the NCAA championship.”
2012 Atlantic Sun Women’s Golf All-Tournament Team
• *Gabriella Wahl, ETSU – 213, -3 (A-Sun Individual Medalist)
• Lacey Fears, Mercer – 213, -3
• Ket Preamchuen, Kennesaw State – 216, E
• Ines Lescudier, Kennesaw State – 217, +1
* - Won two-hole playoff with Fears