In the world of Big South Women’s golf Campbell University’s team is not the Camels, they are the 1,000 pound gorillas.
The Campbell Gorillas won five straight Big South titles. They have been to 10 straight NCAA Regionals and were ranked 38th in the country, almost 100 places higher than the next team in the conference.
Campbell was clearly the favorite going into this year’s conference championship being played at The Patriot near Ninety Six.
Campbell won the top seed for the Match Play championship and beat UNC Asheville to advance to the finals.
USC Upstate finished second in stroke play qualifying and topped Charleston Southern in the first round to advance to the Match Play finals against the gorillas.
Campbell won the first two matches in the five match finals with victories over Abigayle Hatcher and Kathryn Elliott.
After winning those two matches by 4 and 3 scores things got a lot tougher.
Suwarin Yord-In had a lead in her match as did Beem Pabsimma.
Preaw Nontarux was one-down in her match with Big South individual champion Anna Nordfors.
Nontarux finished second to the Campbell golfer for the individual league championship stroke play title.
On the final hole of regulation, Nontarux rolled in a short birdie putt to tie the match and send it to sudden death.
After making a crucial 15 foot putt on the first playoff hole, Nontarux won the match on the next hole when the Big South champion was not able to match her par.
It appeared the win would give the Spartans the championship, but Beem Pabsimma was caught by Campbell’s Patricia Munoz on the final hole of their match to send a second match to sudden death.
The two golfers battled even for three holes before Munoz’s approach shot on the fourth hole ended up 8 feet from the pin.
Pabsimma was left with a much longer putt that missed the hole.
Munoz converted her putt to win the match and give Campbell its seventh straight Big South title.
When accepting the team award Campbell’s Coach John Crooks said the golf was the best he had seen in the conference.
“It turned around on a dime, it could have gone either way, “said Crooks. “We’re fortunate to be the Big South conference champions,” he added.
Crooks graciously offered there were no losers in the final match.
“I really appreciated that,” said USC Upstate coach Todd Lawton. “But the reality is that somebody wins and somebody loses and that is why we play,” he said.
Lawton watched as his team matched Campbell shot for shot until the sixth playoff hole.
“This provides something for the future. It is a good take-away, but we fell short,” he said.
During the playoff the Upstate coach was often surprised by the shots, chips and putts his team was able to produce.
“We hit some shots that were better than I thought we were capable of. Nobody faded, nobody,” said Lawton.
Campbell’s win was not due to luck, the Camels showed why they have been the dominant team in the conference, but the gap between Campbell and Upstate has gotten a little smaller.
“The overall quality of my players is what put us in this position. From the first tee to 18th green they hung in there and stayed with it,” Lawton said.
There are no seniors on the Upstate team so the success and the experience gained in the Match Play final should help the Spartans continue to improve in the conference.
“I’m super proud. I see this as the next step, and we are making big steps in this program. Now we need to add some people to who we have and keep going,” concluded Lawton.
Big South Match Play scores https://results.golfstat.com/public/leaderboards/gsnav.cfm?pg=match&tid=25305