Sept. 15, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - An emotional Liz Nagel won her first collegiate tournament and helped the No. 22 Michigan State women's golf team claim first place at the 30th annual Mary Fossum Invitational Sunday afternoon at Forest Akers West Golf Course on the campus of MSU.
Nagel shot a 2-over 74 in the final round and carded a 1-over 217 (68-75-74) for the tournament to win by three shots. Her grandfather, Jon Sanford, passed away on Thursday.
"It was very emotional for me, all of my family is here and I'm really glad they could be here," said Nagel after posing for pictures with her family following the tournament. "This week was upsetting for me and I contemplated not playing, but I thought there's no better way to honor my grandpa than to go out here and try and win this tournament. In my mind, I was focusing on getting the team win, and I played well, and I said, `OK, let's go win this whole thing for him.' I've never had this many family members watch me before. It was really special to have everybody around me. It feels really good to all be together, even though it's a tough time."
As a team, the Spartans defeated Ohio State by four shots to win their home tournament for the eighth time in the past 11 years. MSU finished with a 54-hole total of 28-over 892 (288-296-308), while the Buckeyes closed at 896 (296-296-304).
"We just weren't really sure what was going to happen with Liz - that kid has been through so much - I'm just so proud of her and her family for how they handled the weekend," said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. "They were all very strong for each other and for her."
Nagel entered the day with a one-shot lead, and found herself in a battle for first all day against Ohio State's Illen Domela. Nagel and Domela, who were in the same group, traded the lead throughout the round, but Nagel held a two-shot advantage with three holes remaining and extended the lead to three after recording pars on 16, 17 and 18.
"(My grandpa) definitely made me earn it," said Nagel, whose previous best finish was third at the Lady Buckeye Invitational in April. "The rain was on and off, and it was a little back and forth (with Domela). I made the turn at even after making a couple of birdies on 7 and 9, which were hard holes today. I knew the back nine was comfortable for me; those last two holes I said just finish strong and get pars, and pars were tough today. If you could get pars, you were doing well. Coach walked with me the last three holes and it really helped me stay calm."
Nagel said the memory of her grandfather helped her get through the tournament.
"My grandpa was an athlete," she said. "Anyone that knew him, they knew he was the biggest Spartan fan and he really never tried to miss an event; Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, he went everywhere to watch us. I really dug deep, and I knew that's what it was going to take. I was upset, and we're all sad about it, but he never would want me to sit the bench, ever. I went out there, and I felt comfortable, and I did what I do best."
Two other Spartans placed in the top 15, as senior Allyssa Ferrell finished sixth with a 6-over 222 (72-72-78) and true freshman Kelly Grassel tied for 14th with a 226 (73-74-79) in her first collegiate tournament.
Nine individuals competed for MSU outside of the starting lineup, led by red-shirt freshman Gabby Yurik, who tied for 17th place with a 12-over 228 (75-76-77).
"I liked what I saw out there," said Slobodnik-Stoll, as MSU opened its 2013-14 season with a victory in the 15-team field and is coming off a school-record ninth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships. "It's September, and we have to be at our best in May. It's nice because we have choices for our top five. I think that's what consistently makes our team good."
For the Spartans, it marks the 10th time they have won the Mary Fossum Invitational, including eight under Slobodnik-Stoll, who also won her 32nd tournament overall as MSU's head coach.
"We really want to showcase Mary with this tournament," said Slobodnik-Stoll, who played under Fossum at MSU from 1991-94. "She's around all weekend and hands out the trophies at the end. I think that's such an important part for these players to understand how much she has meant to the sport. It's awesome for them to be around Mary to see where we came from."
Fossum was the head coach for the Spartans from 1973-97. Under Fossum's guidance, the Spartans won an unprecedented five straight Big Ten titles from 1974-78 and played in six consecutive AIAW National Championships (1973-78). The Spartans regained the conference crown in 1982 and played in the 1982 and 1984 NCAA Championships. She is a member of the Golf Coaches Hall of Fame and the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Michigan State returns to action for the Mason Rudolph Championship in Franklin, Tenn., next weekend (Sept. 20-22) at the Legends Club.
"We've had a lot of good things happen this summer," said Nagel. "Lots of good golf is going on, and we were eager to come back and put it together as a team and see where we were at. I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can do this fall."