In the most
dramatic, thrilling and unusual NAIA Women's Golf National Championship ever,
California Baptist University used 73 holes to wrap up its first-ever NAIA
National Championship, beating Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the first playoff in
national tournament history.
of the last two years of near misses and third place finishes vanished in an instant
with a six-foot putt.
It gave CBU the
last of its 22 NAIA titles.
But that's the
end of the story. The beauty of this year's No. 1 Moment of the Year lies in
the previous four holes, if not the entire 18, plus one.
In third place
trailing both Oklahoma City and Embry-Riddle with four holes to play in the
final round, the Lancers rallied, caught and passed OCU and then got a clutch
birdie putt from Nathalie
Silva on the final stroke at 18 to catch Embry-Riddle and force a playoff
where they eventually beat ERAU for the title.
last four years we've had great teams but couldn't get over the hump,"
said CBU Head Coach Lane Pace, who was named
NAIA Coach of the Year. "We knew this was our last chance, and that's all
we talked about-getting here and giving ourselves a chance on the final day.
The girls stepped up and got better every round."
At its core,
golf is an individual sport, but this championship was truly a team effort.
Samantha Katz was
steadily in the low 80s all week until the final round when she uncorked a 77
(+4), her best round of the week. She played the front-nine at +1 and then came
up with two big pars at 17 and 18 when her competitors were struggling.
All-American Adriana Niclotti struggled her way to a pair of 82s in the second
and third rounds, but came back like the All-American she is with a steady 78
(+5) in her final collegiate round.
After a rough
opening round on Tuesday, Sara Koizumi got better each and every round and
saved her best for last, firing a one-under (72) that featured five birdies and
was the lowest round of the day and second lowest of the tournament. Her
relentless domination of the course kept the Lancers in contention from the
start of the day.
first round, I didn't want to let my team down and needed to step it up and
make sure my score had a positive impact on the team," said Koizumi
Silva, who was
tied for the individual lead heading into the final round, struggled to a +7
(80), just her fifth round all year worse than 78, and losing out on the
individual title but forcing the playoff with her massively clutch birdie putt on
her final stroke at 18.
And that was
after a double-bogey at 17.
"We were on the fairway at 18 and I looked at Nathalie
and said 'it's time for you to be my hero,'" said Pace. "She looked at me
square in the eyes and said 'ok coach' and proceeded to hit the ball within 10
feet of the cup. Then she just buried it, and that was unbelievable."
Then there was
Keyser, who incidentally didn't have her final-round 86 factor into the
team score that day. Yet, as the day would have it, she was given a chance at
redemption on the playoff hole, and she was the one who drained the
championship-clinching six-foot par putt.
Indeed, all five
players had a hand in this championship.
The playoff was
unlike anything ever witnessed in the sport. All 10 players for both teams
played the playoff hole (hole No. 4, a 362-yard par 4) as a 10-some, with the
top four scores counting.
If history were
any indication, the Lancers had their work cut out for them as they played the
fourth hole at +12 the entire week. Embry-Riddle played it at +9. But this set
of Lancers was not to be deterred even with Embry-Riddle's heavy hitters
launching balls off the playoff tee.
All 10 tee shots
got off safely, but just three were in the fairway; two of them had Lancer
logos on them.
One by one the
10 players hit their second shots towards the green. Unfettered by the moment
and with nerves of steel, CBU calmly put all five of its balls right in the
center of the green, along with three balls from Embry-Riddle. However, two of
ERAU's balls sailed left of the green and were in trouble. One of those ended
up a bogey, the other for double bogey.
Niclotti put in
the Lancers' first par, which was remarkable in and of itself since her tee
shot landed on the adjoining No. 7 fairway to the left. She nailed her second
shot right over a tree and onto the heart of the green and two-putted for a
Embry-Riddle had to take its bogey, Koizumi who was steady as a rock over the
final three rounds of the tournament, sank the only birdie of the playoff to
give the Lancers a huge advantage.
Koizumi with a bogey, barely missing her par putt, and Silva put the Lancers in
position to win with a very tricky, four-foot, downhill, left-to-right par putt.
The All-American tapped it in putting the Lancers in position to win it with
just one more par.
It came off the
putter of Keyser and sent the Lancers into the record books.