Oskaloosa–With all five of its players in the top 10, the William Penn women’s golf team dominated the field to once again hoist league hardware at the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship Monday and Tuesday.
#25 WPU earned its fourth conference title in a row by topping the nine-team field with a two-day tally of 607 (304-303) at the par-71 Edmundson Golf Course. Grand View was a distant second at 655 (327-328).
The 607 smashes the program’s 36-hole team record, previously at 615 during the 2014-2015 campaign. William Penn’s victory secures the Heart’s automatic berth to the NAIA National Championships on May 23-26 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (PGA National Golf Course). It is the team’s fourth-straight trip to nationals; the squad will seek to improve upon last year’s 19th-place finish.
With all eight of their ‘kept’ scores in the 70s, the navy and gold took advantage of home-course advantage for their seventh tournament win of the season (ties school record for most wins in a year). The ‘four-peat’ is also the first for any William Penn athletics program in the history of the University.
The lone blemish in an otherwise perfect performance was that WPU did not claim the individual title. Courtesy of the lone eagle in the entire tournament, coming on the last hole no-less, Grand View’s Kimberly Nelson rallied to win the medalist honor and punch her own ticket to nationals. Nelson was first at 150 (73-77).
Jodi Saito (Sr., Mililani, Hawaii, Education) carded a solid 78 on Monday, but then went even lower, improving five strokes Tuesday for a 73 to get into contention for the title. Eventually, she settled for second place at 151.
Miranda Keeler (Jr., Plattsmouth, Neb., Communications) and Helene Larsen (So., Viborg, Denmark, Business Management) were next in a tie for third at 152, but each linksters came to that ending in very different ways. Like Saito, Keeler (77-75) rallied to become a factor in the individual race, but came up just short.
Larsen, on the other hand, played brilliantly on Monday to tie the program mark at 71. In that round, the sophomore had 12 pars and countered three bogeys with three birdies. Unfortunately, Larsen could not maintain that pace in the second 18 (shot an 81) and Nelson overcame her on the 36th and final hole.
Elise Warne (So., Melbourne, Australia, Exercise Science) had some good and some bad, posting a pair of 78s to tie for seventh at 156, while Courtney Cunningham (Sr., Muskogee, Okla., Computer Science) also snatched a top-10 placing with a much better second round. The senior’s 158 (81-77) allowed her to end up ninth in the 50-player standings.
“This team is special; every player in our program pushes one another each and every day,” Head Coach Nik Rule said. “This team has talent, but talent does not win team championships without togetherness and that is something the players in this program have fully embraced. This is a very special group.”
“To set a school record in a big event like this, and to defend our home turf in the way we did, is truly special,” Rule added. “We are proud to represent our University in the way that we have. Nothing beats making our William Penn family proud.”
Story provided by Wade Steinlage