PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The Tennessee State women’s golf team saved the best for last as they completed play for the season at the 30th PGA Minority Collegiate Championship. The Tigers set a pair of school records as they fired a program best 321 for a single round, recording the top 54-hole tournament score in TSU history at 988.
The outing also helped the Tigers to pass Hampton to claim third place behind Bethune-Cookman, who claimed their fifth straight title, and second place Chicago State. It was the Tigers best finish at the Championship, besting a seventh place finish in 2010.
“I could tell during the practice round the Women had a chance for a special tournament,” head coach Parrish McGrath said. “Not just based on the course, but they felt comfortable with the shots they needed to play. We have been working all year to be able to compete at this event and we were able to do it.”
Natalie Spicer and Sarah Needleman paced the Tigers all weekend as they both produced career bests for a 54-round tournament, 236 and 237, respectively. TSU all received a career low round on Sunday from freshman Paige Harlin, who entered the clubhouse with an 83.
Needleman started slow for the second consecutive round and found herself at 5-over through the first four holes. The senior settled in, including a 1-under 35 on the back nine, and recorded the top score for the Big Blue with a 5-over, 77.
Her play on the backside was boosted by back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14. Needleman drained a 30 foot uphill putt on the par-4, 13th, before hitting an 8-iron off the pin from 120 yards out, dropping an inch from the hole, and setting up a tap in for birdie on 14.
Spicer followed up her 75 from Saturday with a 6-over, 78, over the final 18 holes. The junior found success off the tee box as she hit 13-of-14 fairways and 13 greens on her way to 12 pars and one birdie. On the par-4, 15th, Spicer hit an 8-iron from 145 yards out to reach the green in regulation and then sank a 40 foot putt for her lone birdie of the day.
Harlin used 33 putts and hit 11 fairways on her way to an 11-over, 83. The first-year hit her approach shot into the sand on the par-5, 13th. Harlin would blast out of the trap landing seven feet from the hole. Harlin converted the putt to save par.
Kelly Merkel posted the final team scoring round, matching Harlin’s 83. Merkel fought off a rough start, 7-over through six holes, to bounce back and card eight pars over the final 12 holes. The senior secured up and downs on a pair of par-3’s, No. 7 and 12, and averaged just over two putts per hole and hit nine fairways and 10 greens.
11. Natalie Spicer – 83-75-78=236
13. Sarah Needleman – 78-82-77=237
15. Kelly Merkel – 81-81-83=245
25. Paige Harlin – 90-97-83=270
1. Bethune-Cookman University – 295-302-300=897
2. Chicago State University – 303-316-308=927
3. Tennessee State University – 332-335-321=988
4. Hampton University – 334-331-328=993
5. Texas A&M International University – 335-347-323=1005
6. University of Houston-Victoria – 359-348-352=1059