Findlay, Ohio – Patience was what the Grand Valley State women’s golf team focused on all week, and it needed plenty of it to win an eighth consecutive GLIAC Championship.
Although the No. 13 Lakers struggled on the front nine, allowing Findlay to pull within two strokes of the lead, they were poised and gritty when things tightened. While the Oilers began to leak strokes shortly after the turn, GVSU, as it has time and time again this season, got stronger, posing a 15-over-par 303, nine strokes better than any team managed on Sunday (April 26).
The Lakers totaled a 48-over-par 912 for the tournament, topping Findlay (931) by 19 shots and No. 25 Ashland (939) by 27.
“It was a stressful front nine; we did not get out to a good start,” said head coach Rebecca Mailloux. “The girls played really solid on the back nine, especially when the wind picked up. They’re fighters.”
“They did a really good job of staying level-headed on that front nine and not letting it get away from them.”
Medalist honors will also be returning to Allendale. With her third straight even-par 72, junior Gabrielle Shipley became the sixth different Laker to take first place at the GLIAC Championship. It marks the eighth time, and fourth in a row, a GVSU golfer won the individual title.
“I’m very glad it’s done. I’m so happy,” said Shipley, who just seconds earlier had asked if the team did indeed finish off the program’s 12th GLIAC Championship victory. “My driver was really reliable, and so were my long clubs. I trusted my putting and worked on a couple of things a week ago, which really paid off. I just trusted everything this week.”
Shipley had briefly fallen behind Findlay’s Michele Schambs after a bogey at the fifth. Like the rest of the Lakers, though, she remained composed. Four consecutive two-putt pars thrust her back in front, as Schambs played the final three holes of the front nine at 4-over.
The 2015 GLIAC Women’s Golf Athlete of the Year widened the gap with a chip-in birdie at the 10th. Bogeying the 12th briefly brought Schambs back into contention, but she wrapped up the individual crown with another chip-in birdie—which was her 10th of the week, a figure that led the 55-player field—at the par-4 14th. Shipley’s even-par 216 was good enough for a three-stroke win, her fifth of the season, tied for the second-most by any Laker in a single campaign.
Two-time defending GLIAC Championship medalist Kelly Hartigan took third place, becoming the sixth player in program history to record three top-five finishes at the league tournament. Of those six, she is one of only four to win the event, too.
However, a 5-over-par 41 on the front nine threatened her bid for yet another top five.
“Obviously the front nine was very rough, but, when I made the turn, I knew the scores were close and that I just needed to hang in there,” said Haritgan. “We just talked all week that there were easy birdie holes out there…and just to stay patient.”
Following an up-and-down par at 10 and a near-miss on a birdie putt at the 11th, the four-time All-GLIAC First Team honoree got a major lift, as she canned a 21-footer to salvage a par at the 12th. She went on to rattle off four more pars before draining a 30-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th. The 1-under-par 35 coming in gave her a 4-over-par 76 for the day, and an 11-over-par 227 for the week.
“(It’s) definitely special (to win the GLIAC Championship again),” said Hartigan. “I can’t believe four years is already done. It’s always our goal to win conferences.”
Thanks to rejuvenated confidence in her short game by week’s end, sophomore Alex Taylor collected the her fourth top-10 finish of the year, totaling an 18-over-par 234 to tie for ninth place.
Finding some consistency with her driver on the back nine was the key to matching Hartigan’s 1-under-par 35 on the back nine. Taylor fired a 3-over-par 75, her third-lowest score of the season, in the third round. A dart from 115 yards to within a foot of the hole for a tap-in birdie at the 18th was the highlight of her day.
“I was here last year for support, but being able to be here and actually contribute to the team and win the GLIAC Championship was awesome,” said Taylor.
Sophomore Julie Guckian tallied an 8-over-par 80 for a second straight round, recording a 23-over-par 239 to tie for 14th place.
Freshman Samantha Moss also closed with an 8-over-par 80, totaling a 26-over-par 242 to tie for 19th place. The 2015 GLIAC Women’s Golf Freshman of the Year has finished inside the top 20 in each of GVSU’s last two tournaments.
GVSU will now turn its attention to the NCAA East Regional, which will be played at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Illinois on May 3-5.