MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. – Murray State University overcame a six-shot deficit entering Wednesday’s final round to claim the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Golf Championship by two shots over Eastern Kentucky at The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Murray State and Eastern Kentucky went back-and-forth at the top of the leader board during the day with the championship coming down to the final groupings. Murray State senior Delaney Howson, who won the individual medalist crown in leading the Championship from start to finish, birdied a 12-foot putt on the final hole to secure the team’s ninth overall title and first since 2010. MSU has now won OVC Championships in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2014.
With the victory, Murray State earned the OVC's automatic bid into the NCAA Championship. The 2014 field will be announced on Monday, April 28 on the Golf Channels’ Golf Central program that airs from 5-6 p.m. CT. The NCAA Regionals will be held May 8-10 and take place in Tallahassee, Fla. (East Regional), Stillwater, Okla. (Central Regional) and Cle Elum, Wash. (West Regional). Following the Regionals the National Championship will be held May 20-23 at the Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
Murray State finished with a three round team total of 915 (+51) which was two shots better than Eastern Kentucky, who was the team leader after each of the first two rounds, who finished at 917 (+53). Jacksonville State was third (+59) and followed by Morehead State (+63), Tennessee Tech (+70), Austin Peay (+85), Belmont (+107), SIUE (+124), Eastern Illinois (+162) and Tennessee State (+202).
Howson capped a brilliant OVC career that saw her finish seventh, third, fifth and first in her four OVC Championship appearances. The four-time All-OVC selection (one of just five to accomplish that feat in OVC history) became the first Racer player to win medalist honors since 2004 (Nikki Orazine). The senior also set the OVC single round scoring record (68) during Tuesday’s second round. Overall it is the sixth time a Murray State golfer has captured medalist honors. Including the final hole Howson had three birdies during the final round and 13 total birdies for the Championship; she had the only two under par rounds of the tournament.
Howson (212, -4) topped the field by 13 strokes, the largest margin of victory in OVC Women’s Golf Championship history. The previous record had been 11 shots by Murray State’s Lee-Anne Pace in 2003.
In addition to winning medalist honors, Murray State’s Howson was voted the OVC Player of the Year by the league head coaches following the final round. She leads the OVC in stroke average (73.0) and has eight top five finishes in 12 total events this season. She is the fifth different MSU golfer to win the award and the first since 2005 (Nikki Orazine).
The All-Tournament Team, which is comprised of the top five finishers (including ties), included Howson, Eastern Kentucky sophomore Anna Gleixner, Jacksonville State’s Anne Kathrin Albrecht, Tennessee Tech’s Whitney Robertson, Eastern Kentucky’s Sofie Levin, Murray State freshman Sydney Trimble and Jacksonville State’s Melania Bajo Geijo.
Murray State head coachVelvet Milkmanwas named the Bobby Nichols OVC Coach of the Year in a vote of league head coaches. The award is named in honor of the late Nichols, the former Tennessee Tech golf coach and OVC Hall of Famer. It marks the 10th time she has been named OVC Coach of the Year (1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2014).
In addition to Howson’s round of 73 (+1) Murray State was paced by Abbi Stamper on Wednesday as the sophomore fired a round of 75 (+3) to finish the Championship in a tie for 11th place.
Eastern Kentucky entered the final round with a six-stroke advantage before coming up just short in attempting to become the first OVC repeat champions since 2009-10. Gleixner (second) and Levin (fifth) each finished in the top five after respective rounds of 80 and 76 on Wednesday.
Jacksonville State finished in the top three for the 11th-straight year at the OVC Championship (every year the team has been in the league). The Gamecocks entered the final round down by seven strokes but pulled to within three shots late in the round. Albrecht, the OVC Freshman of the Year, led JSU with a three round total of 226 (+10) while Bajo Geijo was three strokes back in fifth (229, +13).
Morehead State’s Linnea Scholin had a 1-under round of 71 on Wednesday to jump from 34th to 20th in the final standings; that was the lowest round of the tournament for a MSU player. Katie Rice capped the tournament with a round of 80 and finished 10th overall (232, +16).
Tennessee Tech’s Robertson led the way for the Golden Eagles, carding a round of 78 (+6) to finish fourth overall (228, +12). Tech’s fifth place finish was its best since the 2009 season when the team finished fourth.
Austin Peay had its best round of the Championship, combining for a team score of 314. Jessica Cathey and Tala Mumford each had 4-over rounds of 76 to finish in a tie for eighth place overall (231, -15).
In its second OVC Championship Belmont finished seventh for the second-straight year. After a rough second round the Bruins improved by four strokes on Wednesday. Sydney Hudson was the team’s top finisher with a three day total of 240 (+24) to finish in a tie for 24th place. Evin Edens carded the low round of the day for Belmont, finishing with a seven-over total of 79.
SIUE had its best score of the Championship during the final round, combining for a team score of 324 (+36). Ashton Stair fired a round of 78 (+6) on Wednesday to finish in a tie for 24th overall (240, +24). It marked the second-straight year the Cougars finished eighth.
Eastern Illinois was led by Tiffany Wolf on Wednesday as she carded a round of 85 to finish in a tie for 35th place overall. Elyse Banovic was the team’s top finisher, placing 33rd overall with a total of 249 (+33).
Tennessee State finished with a three round combined score of 1066 which is the best OVC Championship score in its OVC Championship history; that bested a score of 1084 in 2011. Kelly Merkel was the top finisher for the team, placing 42nd with a three day score of 257 (+41).
For the week the course played 6,203 yards and was a par 72.
The OVC men's golf championship will take place at the same course beginning on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. CT.
OVC All-Tournament Team Delaney Howson, Murray State (MVP) Anna Gleixner, Eastern Kentucky Anne Kathrin Albrecht, Jacksonville State Whitney Robertson, Tennessee Tech Sofie Levin, Eastern Kentucky Sydney Trimble, Murray State Melania Bajo Geijo, Jacksonville State
Bobby Nichols OVC Coach of the Year:Velvet Milkman, Murray State OVC Player of the Year:Delaney Howson, Murray State OVC Freshman of the Year:Anne Kathrin Albrecht, Jacksonville State