Gartrell Headed to National Finals as Individual Qualifier After Florida Southern Falls Just Short as a Team

Amanda Gartrell (photo courtesy of Christian Brothers U.)
Amanda Gartrell (photo courtesy of Christian Brothers U.)

GERMANTOWN, TN – Down by 14 shots from where they needed to be when the day began, Florida Southern climbed back into contention with not only its best round of the tournament, but the best round for any team on the final day of the NCAA Division II South Super Regional. While that comeback ended a little bit short, Amanda Gartrell's did not. The sophomore from Lakeland, Florida used a final-round 71 to move up 12 spots and finish third overall, punching her own ticket to the Division II National Finals as an individual qualifier.

The 8th-ranked Moccasins ended the day with a 298 that included Gartrell's 71, a 75 from senior Abbey Williams, and 76s from junior Tori Higgins and freshman Shelby Lewis. Freshman Ashley Zagers carded an 80 as the Mocs' non-counter. Their 298 was 10 shots better than top-ranked Nova Southeastern, but the Mocs could get no closer than where they ended, still four shots behind the Sharks. At one point Wednesday, they trailed by as many 16.

The top three teams remained the same from Tuesday, as 5th-ranked Barry, 10th-ranked Rollins, and Nova Southeastern finished first, second, and third respectively to advance to the national finals. The Buccaneers were eight shots ahead of Rollins and nine ahead of Nova. It's the second year in a row those teams have been 1-2-3 at the Super Regional, though Nova lost a playoff in 2017 to Lee for the third position.

Gartrell was in 15th place when the day began, but had her best round of the tournament to finish tied for third. With the top three golfers not on one of the advancing teams also moving on to nationals, that put Gartrell exactly where she needed to be. Her round included four birdies, two on the front and two on the back, and she ended up four shots in the clear. Two of her direct competitors were in Gartrell's group too, as she out-shot Lee's Carolina Moore by five strokes, and Lynn's Krissy Ortiz by eight. She also jumped Saint Leo's Amanda Jakobsson and Lenoir-Rhyne's Ainee O'Connor for the final individual bid, and joined West Florida's Paloma Vaccaro and Tampa's Kiira Riihijarvi on the list of national qualifiers.

Barry's Tilda Larsson won the tournament with a South Super Regional record score of seven-under-par 209, breaking the former mark by three strokes. Nova Southeastern's Liliana Cammisa had set the old record with a 212 (-4) in 2012. Her eight-stroke margin over Vaccaro, who finished second at one-over par 217, was another tournament record. Gartrell and Riihijarvi were 13 strokes back with a 222, tied for third, and no one else was closer than 15.

With the top three teams earning spots at the national tournament, the Moccasins needed to make up 14 shots Wednesday while also breaking a tie with Lynn for fifth. The Knights actually pulled in front of the Mocs at the beginning of the round with a pair of early birdies, and the Mocs fell to 16 back of Nova Southeastern at that stage. Later in the morning, however, they began their push as Williams, who was two-over after three, ran off 10 consecutive holes with either a birdie or par. Ahead of her on the course, Higgins birdied 4 and 9 and made the turn at even-par, and Zagers, who was +4 on her opening three holes, rebounded to shoot -1 over the next 10.

With Nova Southeastern in the last wave, and off to a slow start, the Mocs were inching their way closer the further Gartrell got on the course. She opened with a birdie, but bogeys on 5 and 8 dropped her to +1. She then notched birdies on 9, 11, and 13 to go two-under before finishing at one-under. It was her team-leading eighth under-par round of the season and secured her sixth tournament top-five finish.

Williams' impressive run through the middle of the round helped her finish in a tie for 16th with a 229, and Lewis was one stroke behind her, tied for 18th with a 230. Higgins tied for 41st with a 236, and like Williams and Lewis, she also had her best round of the tournament. Zagers was 48th with a 240.

Gartrell begins play in the national finals on Wednesday, May 16, at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston. Tee times and pairings will be announced at a later date.