SAINT LEO – Florida Southern closed out the 2019 Sunshine State Conference Women's Golf Championships with its best round of the tournament, holding its position in the team standings while junior Amanda Gartrell moved up two spots for another top-five finish. The 11th-ranked Moccasins had a final-round 301 to finish eighth as a team, and Gartrell shot a final-round 71 to tie for fourth individually.
Lynn, which came into the postseason ranked No. 8 nationally, won the league championship by finishing one shot ahead of top-ranked Barry, three ahead of No. 3 Nova Southeastern, and six in front of No. 19 Tampa. It was the fourth time the title was decided by a single shot or in a playoff, with Nova Southeastern (2012), Florida Southern (2013), Barry (2015), and now Lynn all doing it in the last eight years. In 2014, four teams finished within two shots of each at the top of the standings for the tightest race in the 21-year history of the tournament.
The Moccasins saw their scores fall throughout the tournament from 310 on Sunday to a 302 Monday, and a 301 Tuesday. That gave them a total score of 913 (+49) and an improvement of 14 shots over last year's score at the SSC Tournament. The Mocs were six shots behind seventh-place and 13th-ranked Saint Leo, and 36 ahead of ninth-place Palm Beach Atlantic.
As the last Moccasin on the course Tuesday morning, Gartrell started her round by parring every hole on the front nine and starting the back nine with a birdie. Another birdie on 12 dropped her score to -2 and it remained that way until her only bogey of the day on 17. After parring 18, Gartrell finished with a 71 that was tied for the second lowest of the day. Only Tilda Larsson of Barry had a better score with a 70. Gartrell's total score of 218 (+2) was also the second lowest ever shot by a Moccasin at the SSC Championships. Emily Rymer remains the Florida Southern record holder with an even-par 216, set in 2015, though Gartrell has another year remaining.
Gartrell finished six shots behind individual champion Kiira Riihijarvi of Tampa, and three behind runner-up Matilda Wahren of Lynn, the only golfers to break par in the tournament. Riihijarvi had a final-round 71 to finish at four-under-par 212. That's the second lowest in tournament history, trailing only the 210 posted by Michelle Ruiz from Nova Southeastern last year. Riihijarvi birdied two of her first three holes Tuesday and never lost the lead in becoming the first Tampa Spartan to win the SSC Tournament. Wahren, meanwhile moved ahead of Nova Southeastern's Hanna Ahlander to claim second place at one-under-par 215 with Ahlander finishing at even-par 216 for third.
Though Gartrell led the Mocs in scoring in all three rounds, each of the other Moccasins took turns as the team's second leading scorer, or were tied for second. On Tuesday it was Lewis with a 75 that included a 36 on the back nine and even-par golf for her final 13 holes. The sophomore moved up 10 spots Tuesday to tie for 36th with a 237 after her best round of the tournament.
Perez was another Moccasin who closed things out by playing her best golf of the tournament. The freshman parred her final 10 holes to shoot a 77 and tied for 29th with the Mocs' second lowest total score at 231. Wetzel and Higgins tied for 33rd with scores of 236, with Wetzel at +1 on the back nine Tuesday and -1 for the last seven holes.
Florida Southern was ranked seventh in the latest NCAA South Region poll and is expected to receive an at-large bid to the regional tournament when that announcement is made on Monday, April 29. The South Regional is May 6-8 in Cleveland, Tennessee.