Women’s golf just shy of NCAA West Regional bid

State Hornet Staff

The Sacramento State women’s golf team made a run for the Big Sky Conference Championship title, but came up short in the final round in Chandler, Ariz.

The Hornets were tied with Portland State for first at 605 heading into the last day of the tournament, but the Vikings overcame the field and defeated Sac State by 15 strokes.

Portland’s A Ram Choi captured the top spot, shooting 70-74-67-211 and tied the third-round championship record at 2-over-par. Portland State earned the automatic bid to the NCAA West Regional.

“We gave it our all,” senior Tiffany Nichols said. “We we were all really sad and let it all out after the round was over, but in the end a team that loses together brings you a lot closer.”

The Hornets won the Big Sky Conference title back in 2007 and since then the program has recorded three second-place finishes since that overall victory.

Sophomore Rockelle Sande made her first Big Sky Championship appearance, where she played a dominant 54-hole tournament and recorded her best collegiate round.

Sande tied for fourth overall with Montana State’s Kati Greear at 225 and led the Hornets for the first two rounds (76-72-77).

The sophomore also recorded her first top-5 collegiate finish as a Hornet.

“Playing a course in Arizona is favorable to a long hitter (like me), because you get a long roll where the courses are dry,” Sande said. “I think that helped me on the second round when I got an eagle on hole-18.”

Sande can drive the ball hard out on the green, but the sophomore stressed the importance of her short game and said it was a factor in her success this tournament.

Senior Lisa Persson carded a final round at even-par 72 as she finished for third overall (223) for Sac State. Last season, Persson tied for 20th and improved her overall score by seven strokes.

Sagee Palavivatana had a shaky first outing, but improved in her next two rounds where she shot an overall 81-75-78-234 to tie for 18th place. The junior had almost identical numbers compared to her 2013 finish (75-76-82-233).

Freshman Chloe Bartek also made her first championship appearance, where she tied for 22nd overall with rounds of 78-78-80-236.

Nichols finished the tournament shooting rounds of 75-80-78-233 to finish in 17th place.

“We had a bit of a different lineup this year, but other than that we knew what to expect,” Nichols said. “We were hoping to go into it with good team chemistry and a lot of energy.”

Nichols fell seven strokes behind her performance from last year’s championship, but only dropped one spot in the standings where she placed 16th in 2013.

“I really would have liked to play a little bit better for my last college tournament, but at the same time I went out there and did the best that I could,” Nichols said.

The women said they have no regrets about their performance on the course as they were neck and neck with Portland State.

“We won in Hawaii as a team and we came in second in conference as a team,” Sande said. “You want a team that you can win together with and a team that you can lose together with.”

The Hornets took the loss very hard because they believed they had a strong enough squad to move on to the NCAA Tournament and thought they still had an opportunity to advance.

“This (final result) was a disappointment, but next year we know what to do differently now,” Sande said. “Short game (technique) is always key and focusing more on putting and the chipping around the greens.”

The results of the championship were identical to the prediction in the preseason coaches’ poll, which picked Portland State as the favorite to win it and had Sac State second.

“It’s been a great year,” said head coach David Sutherland. “We won a tournament, we finished second in another one and we’ve got a team GPA around 3.5, so I’m extremely proud of the young women in our program.”