Spartans Capture Second Straight Big Ten Title
MSU wins its fifth Big Ten title in the last eight years.
MAINEVILLE, Ohio - For the second consecutive season, the Michigan State women's golf team is champions of the Big Ten. The 12th-ranked Spartans shot a 2-over-par 290 in Sunday's final round to finish the tournament at 5-under-par 859 (283-286-290) -- the second lowest 54-hole winning score in conference championship history.
Michigan State overcame a one-shot deficit heading into Sunday's final round at TPC River's Bend in Maineville, Ohio, overtaking Maryland and then holding off hard-charging Illinois and Northwestern in a drama-filled afternoon.
"We talked this morning about how we've been here before and how to handle it," MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. "We've got a lot of experienced players that have been in these in big moments before and they responded."
The title is the Spartans' fifth in the last eight seasons and seventh under Slobodnik-Stoll.
Illinois came within four strokes of first place with the help of a 7-under-par 281 on Sunday, finishing at 1-under-par 863 (292-290-281). Meanwhile, No. 13 Northwestern compiled the lowest round of the day at 8-under-par 280 and finished the tournament in fourth at 1-over-par 865 (293-292-280). Maryland tied with Illinois for second at 1-under-par 863 (288-280-295).
The Spartans' final three players on the course -- Sarah Burnham, Allyson Geer and Katie Sharp -- were able to ice the title for the Spartans as they combined for five birdies over the last two holes.
"That was the difference today. They were clutch when we need them to be," Slobodnik-Stoll said.
Sarah Burnham led the Spartans on Sunday with a 2-under-par 70 and earned her second straight Big Ten runner-up finish at 5-under-par 211 (72-69-70). After two bogeys to start the day, Burnham was near perfect the rest of the way with four birdies and 12 pars. She finished with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
"I think she played like a senior should play," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "In my eyes, we were struggling today; we just weren't making the birdies. Sarah started off with two bogies and then she settled in. She's good at that and I knew we needed her down the stretch. She's just so good at settling in."
Burnham also became the first Spartan to win the Mary Fossum Award, named for the former Spartan coach and awarded to the player in the conference with the lowest stroke average to par. Burnham won the award with a -1.21 stroke average to par, which is the lowest number of any winner in the 12-year history of the accolade.
"We're pretty excited that she won that award," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "We've been waiting for that for a long time and it's great to have it happen."
Geer tied for fourth place at 4-under-par 212 (67-72-73). She was 3-over-par with two holes to play on Sunday before recording back-to-back, tournament-clinching birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.
Sharp tied for 12th by recording her second-best score of the season, a 1-under-par 215 (70-73-72). After a bogey on the par-3 16th hole, Sharp bounced back with her third birdie of the day on the par-4, 410-yard 17th. On the 18th, the senior upped the theatrics by sinking a nearly 45-foot putt for birdie to help the Spartans maintain their slim lead. She finished the day with an even-par 72.
Paz Marfa Sans tied for 34th at 7-over-par 223 (74-72-77). After running into trouble on the 15th and 16th holes with a double bogey and bogey, respectively, Marfa Sans, like the rest of the Spartans, responded. She made par on the 17th and then birdied the 18th to finish the day with a 5-over-par 77.
Yurika Tanida was consistent all weekend, recording three 3-over-par 75s to finish 9-over-par 225. The freshman tied for 40th place.
Catherine McEvoy had her best round of the tournament on Sunday, carding a 3-over-par 75 that included three birdies. McEvoy ended the tournament 22-over-par 238 (82-81-75).
MSU has 13 Big Ten Championships, which is second most in league history. Under Slobodnik-Stoll, MSU has seven titles (2001, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018). MSU won five consecutive Big Ten titles from 1974-78, and also claimed a conference crown in 1982 in addition to the championships won by Slobodnik-Stoll. In the Big Ten record books, MSU is credited with seven Big Ten Championships, as the conference did not officially sanction women's sports until 1982.
The Spartans' tournament win gives them the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. The NCAA will announce the 2018 tournament field on Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. on Golf Channel.