FRENCH LICK, Ind. – The No. 25 Michigan State women’s golf team captured its third Big Ten Championship in four years and 11th in program history in dramatic fashion Sunday on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.
The Spartans (305-293-297) tied for first with Ohio State (301-297-297), as both teams shot a 31-over-par 895; there is no playoff to determine a conference champion in the Big Ten.
Needing to sink a birdie putt on the last hole with Michigan State down one stroke, senior Allyssa Ferrell drained a 9-footer on the tournament’s final shot to clinch a share of the Big Ten Championship for the Spartans.
“It was emotional, but I went back to when I’m practicing, and I tell myself, `OK, this is the putt to win,” said Ferrell. “That’s what I did when I had that putt.”
“It was the best college golf finish that I’ve ever been a part of,” said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who won her fifth Big Ten title (2001, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014). “In sports, those are the moments that you live for. There’s never been a moment where I’m with a kid on the 18th green and they have to make a 9-foot putt to win the conference championship.”
Michigan State entered Sunday’s final round tied with Ohio State, and the two teams didn’t get much separation from each other over the last 18 holes. Although MSU led by three strokes at the turn and the Buckeyes went up by two shots down the stretch, the teams remained deadlocked with the last group teeing off on the par 5, 470-yard No. 18.
“I told Allyssa in the middle of the fairway on 18 after she hit a great shot, because she wanted to know what the score was, and I said, `We’re tied,'” Slobodnik-Stoll said.
It would not only come down to the last hole, but the last shot.
Ohio State’s Jessica Porvasnik, who claimed medalist honors, drilled a 22-foot birdie putt to give the Buckeyes a one-shot advantage, setting the stage for Ferrell’s heroics.
“After Jessica made that 20-footer, Allyssa and I were reading the putt on the other side (of the green),” said Slobodnik-Stoll. “Allyssa turned to me and said, `We’re still tied, right?’ She knew she had to make it – and it went right in the middle. It was awesome. After the first long putt, the crowd was going crazy, but then Allyssa made it, and the Spartan fans went even crazier. For Allyssa to come through in that clutch moment, those are things you can’t teach. She believed in herself.”
The Spartans trailed the Buckeyes by one stroke heading into the final hole, but tied it after Liz Nagel recorded a birdie in the No. 3 group.
Four Spartans placed in the top 10, paced by Ferrell’s fifth-place showing, which equaled her career-best finish at the conference championships. She also tied for fifth last season. Ferrell finished at 8-over-par with a 224 (74-75-75) and was named to the All-Championships Team for the second consecutive year.
“It means a ton,” Ferrell said of helping the Spartans to their third Big Ten title during her career. “When I first came in, I said to coach that I wanted to win four (Big Ten Championships), but that was taken away last year. But I still had the opportunity to win three, and the team worked extremely hard every day to get to this moment. I’m so proud of our team and happy to be leaving with three Big Ten Championship rings. That’s something incredible that not a lot of people have had the opportunity to do, so I feel very lucky.”
A week after placing a career-high 10th at the Lady Buckeye Invitational with a 228, Yurik improved by two shots in the season’s biggest tournament to date, capped by a career-low round of 72 on Sunday. She birdied three holes on the front nine and closed out at even par.
Playing in the No. 2 position on Sunday, Grassel shot a 75, including three straight pars down the stretch as MSU was chasing Ohio State.
“Sometimes, you just have to give opportunities to kids, and then they grow and blossom when they have that opportunity,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “Gabby is an incredible athlete and an incredible competitor. And Kelly has been solid for us all year.”
In her third appearance in the starting lineup at the Big Ten Championships, Nagel tied for ninth place with an 11-over 227 (79-73-75), marking her best career finish at the tournament.
Junior Lindsey McPherson, who made her Big Ten Championships debut this weekend, placed a career-high ninth by also carding a 227 (76-75-76).
Senior Christine Meier tied for 18th with a 230 (76-77-77).
The Spartans and Buckeyes won the tournament by 10 shots over third-place Northwestern.
Michigan State officially received the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals on the tiebreaker, which goes to the team with the lowest cumulative score for all six golfers (format of the tournament for team score is play six, count four). It marks the 16th straight year MSU has advanced to the NCAA Regionals.
Sunday’s victory added to the winning tradition of the Spartan women’s golf program. MSU won five consecutive Big Ten titles from 1974-78, and also won conference crowns in 1982, 2001, 2007, 2011 and 2012. In the Big Ten record books, MSU is credited with six Big Ten Championships, as the conference did not officially sanction women’s sports until 1982. In addition, Michigan State has now placed in the top-three at the Big Ten Championships for 11 consecutive years. Since the inception of the conference championships in 1974, only Ohio State (15) has won more league titles than the Spartans (11). The Spartans also split a championship in 1978 with Minnesota.
The 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships selections will be announced live on Monday, April 28, during Golf Central, Golf Channel’s daily signature news show, with dedicated segments airing that evening from 6 to 7 p.m., Eastern time. Additionally, Golf Central will be streamed live on Golf Channel’s website via Golf Live Extra at http://www.golfchannel.com/ and posted afterward on the NCAA website at www.ncaa.com.
BTN will provide tape-delayed coverage of the Big Ten Women’s Golf Championships on Wednesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. ET.