LAKELAND, FLA. – Seven schools had their best scores of the tournament Tuesday, including host Florida Southern, but it wasn't enough to catch Nova Southeastern, which did not have its best score but still had the best in Tuesday's final round to hold on to its lead and win the Lady Moc Classic for the second year in a row. The 3rd-ranked Sharks closed at +18 to finish nine shots ahead of No. 4 Barry and and No. 13 Lynn and win their fourth tournament of the season.
Rollins junior Seher Atwal claimed medalist honors with a five-under-par 211 to edge out Nova's Sofia Garcia Austt and Lynn's Helen Kreuzer by one stroke. She started the day with a two-stroke lead, got the win by shooting a 71 on Tuesday, and became only the second Lady Moc champion to have under-par scores in all three rounds. The first was Barry's Tilda Larsson, who did it last year on her way to setting the tournament scoring record of -6, which Atwal missed by one stroke.
Larsson was back to defend her title but tied for 15th with a 223 (+7) as Atwal became the fourth Rollins player to win the Lady Moc Classic individual crown. The most recent had been Joanna Coe in 2009. Atwal is also the third straight champion to break par, something that had never been done prior to 2017. With four golfers breaking par in this year's tournament, it brings the total number to 12 over the last three years, again something that had never been done before 2017.
Florida Southern, which is ranked No. 10, finished eighth after a 299, and that moved the Moccasins up three spots in the final standings with a total score of 906 (+42) that would have won eight previous Lady Moc Classics and had them second in four others. It allowed them to finish one shot ahead of No. 5 Rollins. Nova Southeastern, however, turned in the fourth lowest team score in the tournament's 21-year history at 882 (+18), though it was five shots short of their record-score from last year. The Sharks are now the first back-to-back champions since they did it in 2011 and '11, and have won the tournament five times this decade.
Florida Southern got counting scores in the final round from Amanda Gartrell (72), Tori Higgins (73), Madi Wetzel (74), and Shelby Lewis (80), with Loren Perez shooting an 81. Gartrell was their top golfer overall with a 220 and remained at +4 for the tournament. She finished tied for ninth, marking her third straight top-10 finish at the Lady Moc Classic. Higgins tied for 18th with a 225 (+9), Wetzel tied for 36th with a 230 (+14), Lewis tied for 52nd with a 233 (+17), and Perez tied for 63rd with a 236 (+20).
The Moccasins also played four golfers as individuals, led by Ashley Zagers who was 25th with a 226 (+10) after a final-round 76. That was good for third among the 18 players in the field competing separately from their team. Hanna Rizzolo shot a 77 Tuesday, her best round of the tournament, to finish with a 238, Hayley Musselman shot a 78, also her best round of the tournament to finish with a 243, and Nathalie Svensson topped all of the Moccasin individuals Tuesday with a 74 that also matched her best round of the season.
The final day of the tournament was played under some of the hottest conditions anyone could remember for the Lady Moc Classic, which has been played in late February or the first three days of March since 2002. The players fought their way through it and put six teams under 300, twice the number from any previous Lady Moc Classic on the final day. The top five teams in the final standings had to count only one 80 Tuesday, and the sixth through ninth-place teams had to count only two. All but one of those nine teams had at least one score of 72 or better, but Lynn's Helen Kreuzer was the only golfer in the field to shoot in the 60s with a 68.
That 68 tied the tournament record, which has now been accomplished eight times overall and five times in the last three years. It was the second time Kreuzer did it, equaling her score from last year's second round. She had six birdies Tuesday and led the field with 15 in the tournament (three more than anyone else), but it wasn't quite enough to catch Atwal, who birdied or parred 50 of her 54 holes and shook off a double-bogey on her second hole of the day to still shoot a 71.
Sofia Garcia Austt nearly got into the 60s too in the final round but had one bogey to keep her score at 70. That was still good to secure a tie for second place, but left her one shot behind Atwal. Austt was trying to become the second member of her family to win the Lady Moc Classic after her sister Maria took home medalist honors in 2007 and was runner-up in 2009.
Florida Southern's top player on the birdie list was Gartrell with nine and Higgins had seven. Zagers led the team with 37 pars playing as an individual.
Florida Southern's next tournament is the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational hosted by Rollins, March 11-12.