HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. – Edge-of-your-seat. Nail-bitter. Thriller. The final round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Women's Golf National Championship was all of it…and then some. The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas needed extra holes to put away the pesky Williams Ephs on Friday afternoon at the El Campeon Golf Club at Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. to hoist the first National Championship in program history.
The short of the story is that the Williams Ephs and CMS Athenas finished the fourth round of the National Championships tied in the team standings at 93-over par and went to a playoff to decide the 2018 Champion. CMS took a lead early in the playoff, but the Ephs stormed back and tied the match, forcing more golf. With the rest of the team already done with their second playoff hole, Margaret Loncki (CMC) stood over a 15-foot par putt on the 18th green that would clinch the National Championship for the Athenas or, with a miss, send CMS and Williams to a third playoff hole.
Less than two hours earlier, Loncki stood on the very same green clinching the Individual Championship with a par on the 72nd hole of the Tournament. She finished the week 11-over par, three shots clear of the second-best individual in the field. Now playing her 74th hole of the week, Loncki calmly stepped up and drained her put to clinch the National Championship for the Athenas.
The long of the story, is one that will go down in CMS lore. The Athenas (+68 entering the final round) began the Final Round of the National Championships with a four-stroke lead over second-place Williams (+72). The Athenas and Ephs, who had been front-running the Championship since firing identical Day One rounds of 311, were joined in the final groupings by George Fox. The Bruins were lurking just four shots behind Williams at 76-over par in the Tournament.
The George Fox Bruins were fresh off a Thursday score of 305, the lowest single round of the week.
The Bruins followed up their stellar Thursday round with a tough stretch of play on the opening holes on Friday. George Fox ballooned their team score up to 85-over after just three holes and were not a threat to the Athenas or Ephs for the remainder of the day. The Bruins finished comfortably in third-place at 104-over for the Championship.
With the Bruins out of the mix, it just the Athenas and Ephs to battle it out for the Title. As mentioned, CMS held a four shot lead heading into the day and they would need every stroke of that lead to hold off Williams on the front nine.
CMS and Williams went toe-to-toe over the first three holes, with both squads going three-over on the stretch. Three holes later, CMS still held the lead, but the Ephs had trimmed the advantage down to just three strokes thanks to solid play from the bottom of their order.
Through six holes, the Athenas were relatively even across the board. Freshman Mira Yoo (CMC) had made five pars and one bogey and was just one over on the day, Kelly Ransom (CMC) and Loncki had each made three bogies and a birdie to sit at two-over, while Emma Kang (CMC) and Emily Attiyeh (CMC) were both three-over.
The final three holes on the front nine set the stage for a wild back nine. Ransom went seven-over on the final three holes of the front to make the turn at nine-over, but since each team drops one score in ever round, her tough stretch would not hurt the Athenas as long as everyone else kept their solid rounds intact. Loncki had a slight hiccup on the par-three, eighth, making a double-bogey, but Kang birdied the hole and CMS made the turn at 10-over as a team.
Williams on the other hand went one-under as a team on the final three holes of the front and just like that, CMS' four-stroke lead to begin the day had evaporated midway through the round. The Ephs and Athenas were both 78-over for the Tournament after 63 holes of play.
The Ephs continued their strong stretch, by playing the next three holes at just two-over par. Birdies from Phoebe Mattana and Isabella Wang helped the cause for Williams as they took a two-stroke lead over the Athenas with six holes remaining. CMS played the first three holes on the back nine at four-over to fail behind Williams for the first-time on the day.
The middle portion of the back nine started to show cracks in the Ephs, who up until that point were just eight-over on the day. Williams made three double-bogeys and two bogies against no birdies and the tables turned once again. CMS fared much better on holes 13-15, playing the three holes at four-over par.
With three holes remaining, CMS held a two shot advantage, but just as they did on the front nine, CMS struggled to close out the final few holes of the side. Emily Attiyeh finished her round by going six-over across the final three holes to finish the day 12-over par with an 85. As a team CMS went seven-over on the final three holes to finish at 93-over for the Championship.
While CMS was limping home, so were the Ephs. Williams went five-over on the final three holes to also finish the Championship at 93-over across the four rounds.
With the Athenas and Ephs tied following the final round, playoff holes would be need to decide a Champion.
The playoff format consisted of all five golfers from both teams playing the same hole in twosomes. All five players would complete the hole with each team counting their four best scores. The team with the lower team score on the hole would clinch the National Championship. In the event of a tie after the first hole, the process would be repeated until a Championship was crowned.
The 369-yard, par-four 18th hole that had played as the third-most difficult hole on the course all week was selected as the venue for the playoff.
Kelly Ransom was the first Athenas to play on the 18th hole for CMS. The junior had made just four birdies (and one eagle) all week, but carded a birdie three while her opponent made par to put CMS in the driver's seat right off the bat.
After a pair of bogeys from the Attiyeh and her opponent from Williams, Emma Kang gained another stroke for CMS with a par while her playing partner bogied. Yoo gave a stroke back to the Ephs with a bogey and it all came down to Loncki in the final pairing. Both Loncki and Williams' Holly Davenport hit the green in regulation, but Loncki's par putt slid just to the right of the hole and left the door open for Davenport. The freshman Davenport made her two-putt par and extend the playoff to a second hole.
Both teams made the trip back to the 18th tee and began the second hole of the playoff. Ransom, Attiyeh, and Kang all made pars to put the Athenas at even-par through three groups. Williams on the other hand put two bogies on the card and the Athenas led by two with two golfers remaining. In the fourth group, Cordelia Chan made a huge birdie putt while Yoo bogied to, once again, tie the two teams with one group remaining in the playoff. This time around, it was Loncki's time to shine. The senior, All-American knocked in a 15-footer to par the hole. Davenport once again had an opportunity to extend the playoff, but left her par putt a fraction of an inch short and the celebration was on for CMS.
As mentioned, Loncki won the Individual Championship honors with a four-day total of 11-over. Mira Yoo turned in the second-lowest round in the Tournament on Friday with a one-over, 74. Yoo finished the week in sixth place at 19-over. Emma Kang also recorded a round in the 70s on Friday with a six-over, 79. Emily Attiyeh and Kelly Ransom finished back-to-back in the final round with marks of 85 (+12) and 86 (+13), respectively.
It took 74 holes, but the Athenas claimed the first National Championship in women's golf program history. The National Championship is the fifth NCAA team title in CMS department history and second this year, joining the women's volleyball team as National Champions in the 2017-18 academic year. This is the first time in department history that CMS Athletics has claimed multiple team National Championships in the same year.