Florida Southern Wraps up NCAA South Regional in Ninth Place; Gartrell Ties for 14th

Amanda Gartrell (photo courtesy of Lee U./Andy Mitchell)
Amanda Gartrell (photo courtesy of Lee U./Andy Mitchell)

CLEVELAND, TENN. – Florida Southern completed the NCAA Division II South Region Women's Golf Tournament with a final-round 310 to finish in ninth place, while Amanda Gartrell had her second straight 74, but fell one stroke short of a playoff to advance to the Division II National Finals as an individual qualifier. She tied for 14th with a score of 223.

Florida Southern's counting scores Wednesday came from Gartrell with her 74, Loren Perez with a 77, Shelby Lewis with a 79, and Tori Higgins with an 80. Madi Wetzel was the Mocs' fifth golfer with an 84.

The 13th-ranked Moccasins began the day in eighth place, but were only seven shots out of fourth, which was where they needed to be in order to reach the national finals as a team. They were unable to make up ground, however, with No. 7 Lynn, No. 11 Limestone, No. 1 Barry, and No. 5 Florida Tech earning advancement. The Knights won the South Region title with a three-round total of 884 (+20) to finish six shots ahead of Limestone. It's the third regional championship for Lynn, which also won in 2013 and '14, but had not made the national finals since finishing as regional runner-up in 2015.

A member of the Sunshine State Conference has won the South Region Tournament every year it's been held since 2002, but Limestone is the first school from outside the SSC to finish second. The Saints are only the fourth non-SSC school to finish as high as third.

Barry, which had won the last two South Region Tournaments, was third this year, eight shots behind the victorious Knights. Florida Tech was 15 shots off the pace in fourth place, but two shots ahead No. 3 Nova Southeastern for the final team position slated for the national finals. The Panthers are fielding a women's golf team for the final time this season, with men's tennis and women's tennis also being dropped at the conclusion of this academic year.

Florida Tech was the only one of the top four that did not start the final round in one of those positions. The Panthers bumped out No. 17 Saint Leo after the Lions collapsed with a 312 that was the highest team score of the day. The Lions had started the day in second place and only three shots behind Lynn, but fell all the way to sixth after the Panthers out-scored them by 13 shots.

Saint Leo did earn two of the four advancing spots allocated to individuals, with Isabel Nesteus taking the first one with a 217 (+1) that put her in fourth place overall. Saint Leo teammate Izzy Lawrence and Anderson's Victoria Hall each had a 221 (+5) to tie for seventh and take the next two spots, but the final individual berth in the national finals was decided in a three-way tie-breaker between Nova Southeastern's Aldana Foigel, Tampa's Sofia Cadavid, and Flagler's Pauline Tainton, who tied for 11th with 222s (+6). Gartrell was only one stroke behind them as she nearly qualified for the finals as an individual for the second year in a row.

Foigel birdied the first playoff hole (No. 18) to earn the final individual spot from the South Region for the national finals. It was the first such individual playoff since 2015, and the first involving three players since 2013.

Lynn's Helen Kreuzer won the individual title with a two-under-par 214 that is tied for the third lowest in the tournament's 18-year history. She finished two strokes ahead of Limestone's Pilar Martinez, and three ahead of defending champion Tilda Larsson of Barry. Tampa's Kiira Riihijarvi, who is the top-ranked individual in Division II and the 2017 South Region champion, tied for 20th with a 225.

Gartrell's final-round 74 included three consecutive birdies in the middle of the day on 17, 18, and No. 1 on par-3, par-4, and par-5 holes. That put her at three-under where she remained with only six holes remaining. A double-bogey on the par-4 No. 4, however, pushed her back, and three bogeys after that knocked her out of contention. The junior from Lakeland did, however, lower her season stroke average to 74.39, the second lowest in team history, and she now holds the second and third positions on that list behind Heather Burgner.

Perez finished 38th in her first NCAA postseason event with the freshman turning in a 231. She ended the day on a run of six consecutive pars.

Higgins tied for 45th with a 234, and Wetzel was 50th with a 235 in the final tournament of their college careers. Both seniors were +4 over the second half of the round. Lewis tied for 52nd with a 237, and was at +2 for the final nine holes.