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Monday, April 17, 2017

Michigan State edges Texas for title in Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational

   With conference championship tournaments coming up, the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational, which concluded Easter Sunday on The Ohio State University’s renowned Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio, was one last chance to gear up.
   Michigan State, ranked No. 64 in the latest Golfstat rankings, looked like it’s more than ready for the upcoming Big Ten Championship as the Spartans outdueled Big 12 power Texas, ranked 20th, to claim the team title by a shot.
   Gusty winds Sunday made the challenging 6,319-yard, par-72 Scarlet Course play even tougher and Michigan State’s final round of 11-over 299 was just enough as the Spartans finished with a 25-over 889 total, one shot better than the Longhorns’ 890. Texas, which had the early advantage with a 4-over 292 in the first round, posted a 301 in the final round.
   It was another 12 shots back to Kent State, the highest-ranked team in the field at No. 12, and the host Buckeyes, ranked 31st, who shared third place at 38-over 902. No. 29 Illinois took fifth at 910 after struggling to a final-round 316, No. 33 Michigan was sixth at 911 after a final-round 311 and No. 77 Penn State was another shot back in seventh in the 12-team field at 912 after a final-round 310.
   Sarah Burnham, a junior from Maple Grove, Minn., led the way for the Spartans, finishing as the runnerup behind Texas’ Sophia Schubert, a junior from Oak Ridge, Tenn., in the individual standings. Burnham signed for 72 and 73 during Saturday’s double round and added a 1-over 73 in Sunday’s tricky winds for a 2-over 218 total.
   Backing up Burnham was Allyson Geer, a freshman from Brighton, Mich. who was among five players who finished tied for fifth at 6-over 222. Geer had a tremendous 4-under 68 in Saturday afternoon’s second round before slipping back with a final-round 78.
   Also for the Spartans, Katie Sharp, a redshirt junior from Kendallsville, Ind., finished 16th at 226 after a final-round 75, Carolyn Markley, a sophomore from Maineville, Ohio, finished 21st at 229 after a final-round 79, Paz Marfa Sans, a freshman from Spain, finished tied for 37th at 235 with a solid final-round 73 and Logan Otter, a redshirt freshman from St. Peters, Mo., finished tied for 54th after struggling home with an 84 in the final round.
   Teams were allowed six players, one more than usual, but still scored four. Deciding which five will comprise the lineup for the conference tournament might be one of the toughest calls a coach will make all season.
   Schubert took control of the individual race by carding an opening round of 4-under 68 and adding an even-par 72 in Saturday’s double round. A 1-over 73 in Sunday’s tough conditions left Schubert as the only player under par for the weekend at 3-under 213 and with a five-shot margin of victory over Burnham.
   Teammate Haley Mills, a senior from Tyler, Texas, struggled a little in the final round with a 4-over 76, but finished alone in fourth at 5-over 221. She had a solid 1-under 71 in the middle round.
   It was a smart move by Texas coach Ryan Murphy to bring his Longhorns into the middle of Big Ten country on a tough golf course in difficult conditions as they prepare for the Big 12 Championship, which tees off Friday at the Dominion Country Club in San Antonio.
   Indiana’s Erin Harper, a sophomore from Dublin, Ohio, finished alone in third place at 4-over 220 despite a final-round 79. She trailed Schubert by only a shot after rounds of 71 and 70 Saturday.
   Two Buckeyes – Jaclyn Lee, a sophomore from Canada, and Rio Wantanabe, a redshirt junior from Japan -- were in the group of five players tied for fifth at 6-over 222. Lee and Wantanabe, competing as an individual, both finished up strong with matching 1-over 73s.
   Indianapolis University’s Katharina Keilich, a sophomore from Germany, was also in the group at 222. She also had a 1-over 73 in the final round.
   The last member of that quintet at 222 was Penn State sophomore Jackie Rogowicz, a two-time PIAA Class AAA runnerup at Pennsbury. Rogowicz has struggled at times this spring, but she opened with an even-par 72 and finished with a 1-over 73 around a 77 in the middle round for a solid top-five finish.
   The Nittany Lions also got a top-10 finish from sophomore Cara Basso, the 2012 PIAA Class AA champion at Villa Maria Academy. Basso has shown flashes of her considerable talent this spring and had consistent rounds of 76, 72 and 75 on the tough Scarlet Course to finish tied for 10th at 223.
   Sophomore Lauren Waller, the 2014 PIAA Class AAA runnerup at Canon McMillan, finished tied for 29th at 233 after a final-round 81, freshman Madelein Herr, the District One Class AAA champion as a senior at Council Rock North, finished tied for 37th at 235 after a final-round 81, graduate student Kate Granahan, a former Parkland standout, finished tied for 47th at 240 after a final-round 83 and Ashni Dhruva, a freshman from Katy, Texas, finished tied for 66th at 247 after a final-round 83.
   At No. 77 in the Golfstat rankings, I’m guessing Penn State is a bubble team for the NCAA regionals with the selections being announced Thursday, April 27. An NCAA Division I women’s golf bracketologist I am not, but a  solid showing in the Big Ten Championship probably wouldn’t hurt the Nittany Lions' chances.
   Defending co-champions Ohio State and No. 13 Northwestern and the rest of the Big Ten teams will tee off in the conference tournament beginning Friday at TPC River’s Bend in Maineville, Ohio.

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