Florida Southern's Amanda Gartrell begins play at the 2018 NCAA Division II Women's Golf National Championships Wednesday morning at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston after reaching the finals as an individual qualifier. The sophomore from Lakeland is making her first appearance at the national championships as the first Moccasin to play in the tournament as an individual since Heather Burgner was runner-up in 2008.
The top three teams from each of the four super regionals advanced to this week's national finals along with the top three golfers who were not members of those teams. Gartrell earned one of those spots from the South Super Regional by tying for third place with a six-over-par 222 that put her four shots in the clear. Also moving on from that super regional are West Florida's Paloma Vaccaro, who was second with a 217 (+1), and Tampa's Kiira Riihijarvi who tied with Gartrell. Vaccaro and Riihijarvi each played in the super regional as individuals.
Pairings for the first two rounds are already determined, and Gartrell will play with Makenzie Torres of Findlay (OH) and Shi Quin Ong of Missouri Western on Wednesday and Thursday. Action each day begins at 8:30 a.m. Central/9:30 Eastern Time, with Gartrell teeing off the first day at 8:40 a.m. CST, and the second day at 10:15 a.m. CST. Times and pairings for the final two rounds on Friday and Saturday will be determined by scores up to that point. Live scoring is available throughout the tournament at ncaa.com or golfstat.com.
The tournament is being played in Houston for the second time, but the 2008 finals were played at a different course. Bay Oaks Country Club is a par-72 course covering either 6,190 yards or 6,103 depending on the layout used this week.
Gartrell is the 10th Moccasin to reach the national finals as an individual qualifier, though four of those came in 1996 (giving Florida Southern enough players for a team score), and three came in 1997, prior to the NCAA splitting Division II and III into separate championships. Since teams and individuals began qualifying for the national finals through regional tournaments in 2002, Gartrell is the third Moccasin to advance as an individual, joining Lindsey Bergeon in 2006, and Burgner in 2008. Bergeon and Burgner each went on to finish as the national runner-up.
An individual qualifier has won the Division II National Championship Tournament three times, including twice in the last three years. Saint Leo's Marie Coors won the title last year, and Midwestern State's Breanna Moore won in 2015. The third individual winner was Daniela Iacobelli of Florida Tech in 2007. There have also been five individuals who were runner-up, and in 2007, Nova Southeastern's Maria Garcia Austt was just one stroke behind Iacobelli. That marks the only time the top two golfers at the national finals were individuals.
As the only Moccasin to play in every tournament this season, Gartrell not only leads the team with her 74.44 stroke average, she has a chance to set a new school record in that category. Burgner holds the current record at 74.27, which she set nine years ago, but Gartrell would break it by shooting three-over-par or better at nationals. The best score any Moccasin has ever had at the finals is +1 (293) by Pamela Feggans on a par-73 course in 2005.
Gartrell could also match another Burgner record with her 11th top-10 tournament finish of the season, and is seeking her seventh top-five. (Gartrell also placed fourth in a dual match against Kentucky.) Her best finishes this year were at the Barton Invitational in early February, and last week's NCAA South Super Regional where she finished tied for third in both of them. She has an individual winning percentage of .894, though even a win at the finals would leave her a little short of Burgner's .937 percentage from 2008-09.
Florida Southern's last individual national champion was Jana Peterkova, who won the title in back-to-back seasons in 2001 and 2002. She accomplished that as a freshman and sophomore her only two seasons at Florida Southern. Previous Moccasin national champions were Lisa Cave in 1999 and 2000, and Shanna Nagy in 1996 and '98. The Moccasins have also had seven runners-up, most recently Burgner in 2008. The last Moccasin to place in the top-five was Emily Flanigan in 2011, and the last to place in the top-10 is M.J. Audette in 2012.
In addition to Gartrell and Riihijarvi from Tampa, the Sunshine State Conference will have three teams at the national finals in Barry, Rollins, and Nova Southeastern. Barry is the defending national champion, and SSC schools have combined to win all but one of the previous 18 Division II National Championships.