Eagles Finish Third at Big Sky Championship

April 23, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women's golf team earned its sixth-consecutive top-five finish at the Big Sky Conference Championship with a third-place showing at this week's Championship, concluded with the final round on Wednesday (April 23). The Eagles finished just three shots behind the champion, Portland State, in the three-day, three-round event hosted by The Foothills Golf Club in Phoenix, Ariz.

"You have to elevate your play to win a championship," head coach Marc Hughes said. "Portland State was able to do that this week. We were not. They were 30 shots better than their average, and we were right at our average. That's the tale of the tape.

"The girls played their butts off and made it exciting at the end (PSU held as high as a 14-stroke lead over the Eagles on the back nine). We had our chances, but at the end of the day, were outplayed and outcoached. I will take responsibility for this."

Three Eastern players finished in the top 10, the first time EWU has ever placed that many in the top 10 at a Big Sky Championship. Chloe Nelson shot a 227 (77-76-74) to tie for fifth, becoming just the eighth Eagle to ever attain a top-five showing at the Championship. Her finish earned her a spot on the All-Tournament team. She also finished the year with the lowest average round in school history (76.56 - 2,067 strokes in 27 rounds).

Just behind her was Kellie Holmstedt, who had a great showing in the freshman's first Big Sky Championship event. She shot a 228 (71-78-79) to finish in a seventh-place stalemate. Tied for 10th was Kristina Gargaro, another freshman. She carded a 230 (78-75-77) and completed her initial Eagle season with a scoring average of 77.07 (2,081 strokes in 27 rounds), third-best in school annals.

In a tie for 15th was Marli Mikulecky, who had a 232 (77-81-74). She finished the season with the second-best scoring average in school history (76.63 - 1,839 strokes in 24 holes). Senior Chelsey Lollar finished her impressive Eagle career in a 27th-place stalemate with a 239 (75-81-83).

In the team standings, one of EWU's 11-best performances in school history was not enough to claim the title, as Portland State gutted past Northern Arizona by two strokes and EWU by three. The Vikings turned in a 911 (306-297-308), while the Lumberjacks had a 913 (302-307-304). Eastern Washington shot a 914 as a team (300-310-304), which tied for the 10th-lowest three-round tournament score ever posted by an Eastern squad.

Behind the Eagles in fourth-ninth places, respectively, were Montana (921, 310-307-304), Sacramento State (928, 321-307-300), Northern Colorado (939, 308-309-322), Montana State (948, 326-314-308), Weber State (958, 327-320-311) and Idaho State (986, 336-321-329).

Eastern Washington's third-place showing at the Championship has only been surpassed previously on two occasions (second-place finishes in 2003 and 2004).

The Eagles finished up an incredible season today which saw Eastern Washington claim two team titles (the MDA Invitational and the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic), its first championships in four years, as well as an individual crown (Gargaro at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic) for the initial time since the 2003-04 campaign. Eastern Washington finished in the top five in a total of five tournaments this season.

"The upshot is that we have a really talented team returning next year," Hughes said. "All three of my first team All-Big Sky players (Mikulecky, Nelson and Gargaro) return along with my lone 2nd team All-Big Sky player (Holmstedt). This was the best year in my program's history, so we have a bright future ahead of us. These girls performed at a very high level and represented Eastern well. I am very proud of them."
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