April 8, 2008

One Tournament, Two Titles

April 8, 2008

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For the first time ever, the Eastern Washington University women's golf team won team and individual crowns at the same tournament. The Eagles outlasted Wyoming for the team title and freshman Kristina Gargaro claimed her championship via a scorecard playoff at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic at the Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Ariz. Eastern Washington impressively had four Eagles place in the top 16.

Individually, Gargaro had a 221 (80-72-69), tied for the sixth-lowest three-round tournament score ever recorded by an Eastern golfer. She and South Dakota State's Hillary Gerster finished with the same score, and Gargaro was able to prevail because she birdied the 18th hole and Gerster had a bogie on that hole. Meanwhile, Gargaro's third-round score of 69 was not only a Cowgirl Classic record, but tied for the third-lowest round in school history.

The last Eagle to win an individual championship was Kelly Gardner, who claimed the Pilot Women's Invitational played from April 5-6, 2004. In fact, Gargaro today won just the third individual title by an Eagle in the past 11 years.

She was quickly named the Big Sky Conference Golfer of the Week following her championship performance. This marks the sixth time this season Eastern Washington has claimed league GOW accolades, a first in league history. Incredibly, five different players have earned the honors (Gargaro has done so twice); never before had a league school even had four separate players earn league honors.

"It is very difficult to win a college tournament, but to do it as a freshman is really remarkable," Hughes said. "Kristina is very talented, but more than that she has the perfect demeanor on the course. She doesn't have huge emotional ups and downs and that showed today. She shot three under with a double bogey on her last hole (hole nine, as she shot 10-18 before 1-9). That is a really impressive number at any level."

The team competition came down to the wire with the Wyoming Cowgirls. Eastern Washington finished with a 912 (309-302-301), tied for the seventh-lowest three-round total in Eastern annals, while UW posted a 915 (311-302-302). The rest of the 16-team field finished 15 or more strokes behind the Eagles. Seven of the nine Big Sky squads participated in the tournament.

The team title is the squad's second of the season, as Eastern Washington also claimed the MDA Invitational, played from Sept. 24-25, 2007. The last crown earned before then was the Inland Empire Intercollegiate from Sept. 25-26, 2003.

"The team played very well this week," head coach Marc Hughes said. "Ocotillo is a course we have never been on and it took a little time to acclimate to it, but the kids did a great job of competing. We did just enough to squeeze by Wyoming and get some hardware back to Cheney. I'm really proud of the team."

In addition to Gargaro, the rest of the Eagles posted outstanding numbers to help the Eagles to the team title. Tied for fifth overall was Marli Mikulecky (227, 78-72-77), in a stalemate for 13th was Kellie Holmstedt (231, 76-78-77), placing in a 16th-place tie was Chloe Nelson (233, 75-80-78) and tying for 37th was Chelsey Lollar (241, 82-80-79).

Next up, Eastern Washington will play a practice round followed by a competitive round at the Foothills Golf Club in Phoenix, Ariz., the site of the Big Sky Championship. The Preview Challenge will occur on Thursday (April 10), while the three-round Championship takes place from April 21-23.

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