BUENA VISTA, Va. - After being postponed twice due to hurricanes, the Knights Invitational was played on Thursday at Vista Links Golf Course and the Bridgewater women's golf team overcame some challenges to claim their first victory of the 2018-19 season.
While the weather finally cooperated for the one-day event, the pace of play was slow, scoring was difficult, and course conditions were less than ideal; the Eagles also came into the tournament "blind" (none of the team having played the course before), but the team placed all five starters in the top-10 among 31 players and came away with a win- guaranteeing that the program will go at least five straight seasons with a team victory.
Senior Amanda Kelley had a slow start on Thursday and was 9-over par through nine holes (after starting on #8 in a shotgun start). A triple bogey on the par-5 16th hole seemed to light a fire in the senior though, and she made three birdies on the way to an even-par inward nine. Kelley overcame a three-shot deficit late in the round to shoot 81 and claim her second collegiate medal.
"Today was definitely a grind day, but I'm proud of the way I was able to stay in it enough to get my second collegiate win," said Kelley. "I was also super proud of how my teammates were able to grind to get our first win of the season."
Thursday was a day of firsts for freshman Hannah Woodson, who had not yet even posted an official score for the team coming into the Knights Invitational. While most players in the field were experiencing higher than usual scores, Woodson posted her new collegiate low round of 87, which not only counted for the team, but claimed a tournament flag for fifth place. Head coach John Rogers noted that Woodson has been working hard on her swing and chipping techniques and has been making major improvements.
Sophomore Abby Papke averaged 98.5 during her rookie year, but this year she has consistently contributed to the team score, and after her third straight round in the 80s (89) she also claimed her first-ever tournament flag, a tie for eighth. Papke has added some length this year and gotten better about avoiding big numbers. "Lately Abby has been scoring about 10 strokes better than last year, and she is providing quite a spark for the team," said Rogers.
Jesse Bartley and Heather Donnelly were not thrilled with their matching 91s but they helped round-out the winning team score of 348. Bartley was not pleased with her iron play, but she continued working hard and she made it through the tough stretch of holes #14 to #18 just two strokes over par. She and Donnelly finished in a tie for 10th.
Playing as an individual, and playing only her fourth competitive round in a year, senior Meghan Morris shot 112 to finish in 24th place.
The Eagles led from start to finish in the six-team field, though ODAC rival Randolph Macon (351) pulled within three shots at the end of the day. The hosts from Southern Virginia finished third, 23 strokes behind Bridgewater.
"Today kind of reminded me of our program's first team victory [at Stevenson in 2014]," said Rogers. "The ladies were not scoring the best and most of them were upset at some point during the round, but they fought hard until the end, and when the dust settled, we had won the tournament and claimed a bunch of the top spots. While we have been blessed with a lot of success in recent years, this is a new and younger team, and I'm so happy for them to experience a team win, and to ring the bell!"
The Eagles have one more tournament in the fall portion of their season, next week at Randolph Macon.