KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (April 20, 2021) – For the first time ever, the Southern Conference Women’s Golf Championship is heading to Johnson City!
In what will go down as one of the most memorable finishes in program history, ETSU edged Furman by one shot on the final hole to capture the conference crown Tuesday afternoon from Oak Point Golf Club at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
After seeing its three-shot lead vanish early in the final round and sitting in third-place four shots back at the turn, the Buccaneers turned things around on the back nine. Senior Tereza Melecka (Belcovice, Czech Republic) ignited the rally with three consecutive birdies from No. 11-13, while the championship came down to the final hole.
With ETSU and Furman tied atop the leaderboard, it all came down to the par-4, 360-yard 18th-hole. As her teammates watched on, graduate transfer Julia Goodson (Hudson, Ohio) sank a par putt, while Furman’s Sarah-Eve Rheaume – the individual champion – bogeyed, sending the Bucs into a championship celebration. After Rheaume hit into a hazard off the tee box, she was forced to take a drop and made a 10-foot bogey putt. Goodson chipped one inside five feet of the hole and sank the par putt for the win. Goodson’s putt posted the Blue and Gold at 12-under-par 876 for the tournament, while Furman, who had won the last five conference championships, finished at 13-over-par 877.
“With the scores not updating until every three holes, we weren’t exactly sure where we stood,” said head coach Stefanie Shelton. “As I was walking to the 18th green with Julia, I checked the scores and they just updated, so we knew we were tied with Furman. Julia stepped up to her four-foot putt and rolled it right in.”
“It feels unreal and hasn’t really hit us, yet,” said Goodson. “We knew it was close (heading to the final hole) but I didn’t know the score. I was nervous walking up to my final putt as there were a lot of people around the green. I kept telling myself, ‘treat it like any other putt.’ That helped calm my nerves and not worry about the score. Afterwards, it helped the result and as I was walking towards Coach Shelton, she said ‘I think that putt may have just won the championship.’”
The Bucs captured their third tournament win of the season and fourth conference championship in program history as ETSU won ASUN titles in 2008, 2013 and 2014. With the ETSU men’s team also winning the SoCon Championship on Tuesday, this marks the first time in program history both teams captured conference crowns in the same season.
“I am extremely proud of our team for how they fought back to win the championship,” said Shelton. “We have been working on our course management this spring and knew it would pay off in the end. We saw that happened again today. We kept believing in ourselves and played our game until the very end. We hung in there until the very last putt. Our girls worked extremely hard this year. For them to stay COVID-free this semester, which allowed us to travel and compete, it’s super, super sweet for them to be rewarded with the championship.”
In total, the Bucs had four players finish in the top-10 and all five place in the top-20.
Melecka led the Bucs as she finished tied for third at 2-over-par 218, marking her highest finish at the conference championship. The Buccaneer senior leader was three-over thru her first seven holes, but an eagle on the par-5, 477-yard No. 8 provided the spark she was looking for. From there, Melecka had the run of three straight birdies, and after carding a double-bogey on the par-4, 336-yard No. 14, she bounced back with her fourth birdie over a five-hole stretch to get back to one-under on the round. For the tournament, Melecka led the 45-player field in par-5 scoring (4.60), while her nine birdies were the third-most.
“We are all very excited,” said Melecka. “It was great to celebrate with my teammates and to keep our season moving forward. We are looking forward to regionals.”
“Tereza had a the strong finish in round one and then lost the feel in her putting in the second round,” said Shelton. “She was frustrated and we didn’t have time to work on it as we ended late on Monday. She struggled early on today but she made a technical adjustment after the turn and rolled in those three straight birdies. That was a huge shift for us.”
Freshman Grace Chin (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) waited for the best time to record her top collegiate finish as she placed sixth overall at 3-over-par 219. Chin registered a solid 1-under 71 on Tuesday, while it was her fourth and final birdie on the par-4, 349-yard No. 16 that moved the Blue and Gold into a tie atop the leaderboard with Furman. The Buccaneer rookie posted the top score by a freshman in this week’s tournament, while her 10 birdies led all ETSU players.
“I am super proud of Grace as she continues to grow throughout the season and was rewarded for her hard work today,” said Shelton. “For her to finish under-par today, with the pressure coming in, shows how strong of a golfer she can be. She’s going to be a big leader for us moving forward. She has already stepped up and is doing great things for our program.”
Meanwhile, Goodson finished right behind in seventh-place at 4-over-par 220. With the pressure mounting, Goodson played the final four holes at one-under, including the last three at even-par to help secure the team win.
Senior Warda Amira Rawof (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) finished tied for ninth at 6-over-par 222, while she also received the SoCon Pinnacle Award for having the highest grade point average on the winning team. Rawof has a 3.508 GPA and is majoring in Logistics & Supply Chain Management with a minor in Marketing.
Grad transfer Blanca Porta (Zaragoza, Spain) finished tied for 20th in her SoCon debut after collecting 35 pars and six birdies on the week.
“This was a full team effort,” said Shelton. “We put ourselves in the lead and last night we were in a familiar position as our previous two wins this season. That helped us as we’ve been there before. We knew there would be pressure and that it was going to be a battle. From top to bottom everyone contributed to this win. It took all five of our players and we are in a great spot heading into regionals.”
Individually, Furman finished one-two on the individual leaderboard with Rheaume edging out teammate Madison Moosa by one shot. Rheaume shot a 2-over 74 on Tuesday to finish at 4-under-par 212, while Moosa was 4-under 68 and totaled a 54-hole score of 3-under-par 213.
The NCAA Regionals will be announced next Wednesday, April 28 on The Golf Channel. The regionals will be held May 10-12.
For more information on ETSU women’s golf, please visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s golf tab.