Belton (May 7, 2012) -- The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor women’s golf team will return to the NCAA Division III National Championships for the second straight year and the eighth time overall when the tournament opens next Tuesday, March 8th. The 19-team, six-individual field for the 2012 tournament was announced last night. This year’s tournament will be played May 8-11 at Zollner Golf Course in Angola, Indiana.
The UMHB women will be making their 12th overall national tournament appearance and their eighth total appearance in the NCAA National Tournament. The Cru women capped a streak of four straight NAIA National Tournament appearances by winning the NAIA National Title in 2000. The UMHB women finished fourth in their inaugural NCAA Division III National Championship appearance in 2001, posted four straight runner-up finishes in the NCAA’s and then finished seventh in the country in 2006. The UMHB women finished 14th at last year’s National Tournament after shooting 1045 in a tournament shortened to three rounds when the final afternoon wave was washed out by thunderstorms. U.T.-Tyler’s Danica Weddle also made this year’s tournament field, giving the ASC six of the 101 golfers in the national tournament. Methodist University has won 14 consecutive Division III National titles and the Monarchs are once again back to defend those crowns this year.
The UMHB women earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 31-stroke victory in the ASC Championship Tournament. It was the ninth overall conference title for the Cru. UMHB will field a line-up that includes five underclassmen in the National Tournament. Sara Eckert (So., Brenham) and Kelly Gonyea (So., Harker Heights) are the two veterans in the top five for the Cru and they will be joined by freshmen Kristen Cain (Fr., Kingwood) Taylor O’Rear (Fr., Salado) and Victoria Thane (Fr., Stamford). The ASC Championship was one of five tournament wins for the Cru this season, joining victories in the UMHB Fall Invitational, the Schreiner University Fall Classic, the Alamo Classic and the Southwestern University Invitational. O’Rear leads the Cru women in stroke average at 80.61 on the season and she won the ASC Individual Championship by shooting 80-81=161 to top teammate Eckert by ten shots. That was one of four individual wins for the Cru women this year. Eckert won the Alamo Classic, Gonyea won the UMHB Fall Invitational and Cain won the Schreiner University Fall Classic to go with O’Rear’s ASC Tournament title.
O’Rear and Eckert were both named to the ASC All-Conference First Team and Cain and Gonyea were Second Team ASC All-Conference selections. Kirby won ASC Women’s Golf Coach of the Year honors for the ninth time.
“We are very excited to be back in the national tournament and it was certainly a goal of ours to start the year,” Cru head coach Darla Kirby said. “I am so proud of the way the girls stepped up this year, especially with such a young team. They are all so competitive and confident in their abilities and we are looking forward to the chance to play against the best programs in the country.”
Eckert and Gonyea both played in last year’s National Tournament. Eckert shot 262 and tied for 62nd place while Gonyea tied for 77th place with a 268 total. This will be the first national tournament appearance for each of the three freshmen.