Special to The Sun
AMARILLO, Texas —
There would be no back-nine rally for Central Oklahoma in the final round of the NCAA Division II West Regional Tuesday as the Bronchos fell short in Their bid for a national tournament berth.
No. 13-ranked UCO used a closing nine-hole surge in Monday’s second round to get within range of a top-three finish needed to advance to nationals, but a brutal stretch on holes 13, 14 and 15 prevented the Bronchos from moving up in the final standings.
UCO had a final-round 322 in finishing fourth in the three-day, 54-hole tournament with a 951 total. No. 3 Tarleton State won the toughest regional in the country — which had all nine teams ranked in the top 19 — at 923, while No. 6 St. Edward’s (939) and No. 7 Western Washington (943) earned the other national tournament spots.
Fifth-rated Grand Canyon was fifth at 954, followed by No. 9 Cal State-Monterey Bay (956), No. 17 Northeastern State (970), No. 19 Nebraska-Omaha (972) and No. 12 Sonoma State (984).
The Bronchos came close to advancing an individual to the national meet, but freshman Chaney Uhles lost on the first hole of a playoff for the third and final spot available. The top-three individuals not on the three qualifying teams moved on to nationals.
Uhles used a birdie-birdie finish to make the playoff and led UCO with a closing 77. Emily Leahey shot 80, Taylor Neidy 82, Erica Bensch 83 and Mychael McWhorter — who battled nausea all day — 92.
“We were still in the ball game going into the back nine, but we struggled coming in and threw a few shots away,” UCO coach Michael Bond said. “We fought hard and I’m really proud of the way we gave ourselves a chance on the back nine on the final day. That’s something we talked about before we came here and we put ourselves in position.
“And I can’t say enough about the way Chaney played down the stretch. She had a rough stretch on the back nine, but she hung in there and birdied the last two holes to get in the playoff, which is a great learning experience for her.”
Uhles used a birdie on the tough par-3 fifth hole — the lone one of the day on that hole — to get to even par before falling back with a double bogey on No. 6. She finished with three straight pars, including a tough up-and-down on No. 9 after hitting a tree off the tee, to make the turn at two-over 38.
The rookie standout bogeyed No. 10 to fall to three-over and then went bogey, bogey, double bogey on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to drop to plus-seven. Uhles rebounded strong, making par on No. 16 before her birdie-birdie finish gave her a back-nine 39 and the 77.
It would be more than an hour before Uhles went into a playoff with NSU’s Whitney McAteer for the final individual qualifying berth and both drove it in the middle of the fairway on No. 18.
Uhles’ approach from 135 yards went just over the green, while McAteer came up five feet short of the putting surface from 110 yards. Uhles’ downhill putt slid 10 feet past the hole and her par attempt burned the edge, with McAteer chipping to three feet and then making the putt to claim the playoff.
Leahey and Bensch both came up a stroke short of making that playoff.
Leahey got off to a great start and was one-under through eight holes before going out of bounds and making double bogey on No. 9. She struggled to a back-nine 43, bogeying her final two holes in finishing with her 80.
Bensch was three-over after three holes, but finished the front nine with six straight pars for a 39. She was still just four-over after 12 holes before making two double bogeys in the 13-14-15 hole stretch that crippled the Bronchos and came in with a back-nine 44.
Neidy opened her round with a tap-in birdie and was just one-over through six holes before a bogey, double bogey, bogey finish resulted in a front-nine 41. The freshman came back with the same score on the back nine to complete the 82.