Lugar wins tournament as golf falls one stroke short
Despite the narrow loss to NAIA No. 6 William Woods University, which has now won every rendition of the tournament, the Bears chose to dwell on the positives.
After earning a Division III No. 1 ranking from GolfWeek for the first time ever last Wednesday, the team could have easily become complacent. But according to junior and co-captain Olivia Lugar, the Bears approached this tournament like any other.
“We always go out with the intention and the drive to win every tournament,” Lugar said. “I know everyone is really excited that we got that wonderful recognition. Like every tournament, we are thinking about what we need to do to win.”
Wash. U. led after round one with a tournament-record 300, and Lugar paced the field with an even-par 72. Sophomore Connie Zhou (74), senior Andi Hibbert (77) and freshman Xin Fang (77) all sat in the top 10 overall entering the second day. Lugar’s eagle on hole No. 15 highlighted the day, after which the Red and Green led William Woods by six strokes.
While William Woods caught fire en route to a new tournament-record 299 on day two, Lugar shot a 75 to earn the individual title with a tournament-record 147, besting the 148 by assistant coach Hannah Buck (’13) in 2012.
“It feels really good to come out of the winter and start playing better again,” Lugar said. “I was really able to go out and stay calm throughout the whole tournament. I think I played a lot more like I used to where it didn’t matter necessarily if I missed a green.”
In addition, Zhou (151) and Fang (152) also made the all-tournament team, and Hibbert, playing in her final home tournament in front of her parents, who traveled from Colorado to watch, kept her round-two score below 80 to finish in the top 15 (156).
Players and coaches alike were thankful for the playing conditions over the weekend as temperatures hovered near 60 degrees both days and the sun shone throughout. Despite distracting noises coming from the adjacent race car track, workers repairing a roof near hole No. 17 and a dead tree falling over Saturday that blocked a cart path at No. 15, head coach Sean Curtis said that, given the severe weather Thursday and the low temperatures Friday, the teams couldn’t have hoped for better playing conditions.
“I think we’re always going to feel confident playing on Gateway National, our home course,” Hibbet said. “We had really good scoring conditions the past two days as well. I’m very impressed with my team’s resilience.”
The field featured 10 ranked teams, and Wash. U. (606 overall score) bested every team from NCAA Division III. No. 9 Rhodes College (623) finished third, followed by No. 21 Carleton College (628) and No. 6 DePauw University (628) in a tie for fourth.
“We just need to stay confident for the rest of the season,” Hibbert said. “We are getting better and stronger and more confident every day, so we just have to stay focused. One of the best things about this team is that we will never be complacent about anything.”
Zhou said coming so close to first place will keep the team ready to compete in future events.
“I think the one-stroke deficit really gives us some added motivation moving forward, reminding us that every stroke counts,” Zhou said. “Anything can happen.”
Next weekend, the Bears will look to continue to defend their No. 1 ranking at the IWU Spring Fling in Normal, Ill. Wash. U. placed second of 15 teams last year, its highest finish ever.