By Ken MacLeod
Is two-time Big 12 champion Kenzie Neisen of Oklahoma State rounding into form at the right time for Oklahoma State, which will host the NCAA Championships next month at Karsten Creek?
For the answer, we go to the par-3 17th hole at Tulsa Country Club in the final round of the Dale McNamara Invitational Tuesday, where Neisen’s tee shot had missed the green left, leaving her on tight, near-dormant grass with a shot over a mound to a pin cut near the left edge. The kind of shot that, without perfect execution, could lead to a bogey or worse.
No worries for the senior from New Prague, Minnesota. She deftly flopped the ball over the mound off the tight lie and straight into the cup, a Jordan Spieth-worthy effort. Her birdie helped her finish off a round of even-par 70 as the Cowgirls won the 13-team event by five shots over Texas A&M.
“It was a fantastic shot,” said OSU coach Courtney Jones, who was watching from the elevated tee box. “It just shows what kind of player she is and how she fights for every shot.”
Neisen finished tied for second in the tournament with teammate Emma Broze, who shot the tournament low round in the afternoon Monday with a 3-under 67, as well as Sasikarn Somboonsup of Texas State.
The Cowgirls will next play in the Big 12 Championship April 20-22 at the Dallas Athletic Club, before being given their regional assignment, where they will battle 18 teams for one of six spots for the NCAA Championship May 18-23 at Karsten Creek.
That will be the pressure-packed assignment for this veteran team. Every day they see television towers going up and other preparations ongoing for the NCAA Championship. Making sure they are in the tournament is paramount.
“Just seeing everything that’s going on, we definitely want to be there and playing our best golf,” Neisen said. “It’s going to be a case of taking it one shot at a time and doing our best.”
Neisen struggled in the early tournaments this spring but along with Broze is now giving the Cowgirls a strong one-two punch as postseason nears. Also for OSU, Stephanie Astrup finished 11th at 8-over 219, Chih-Min Chen tied for 20th at 15-over 225 and Alexis Sadeghy was 30th at 228. She shot 81 in the first round and bounced back with a 71 before shooting 76 Tuesday.
This is the second tournament championship for the Cowgirls this season, and marks the 92nd all-time event title in program history. This is OSU’s second win at the Dale McNamara Invitational after also winning in 2011.
Tulsa, down to four players due to injuries and a suspension, nevertheless finished seventh. Olivia Jackson finished eighth at 217 and Johanna Samuelsson tied for ninth at 218.
TU is also without its head coach, as coach Emilee Klein resigned March 26 for personal reasons. TU is conducting a national search and Associate Athletic Director Crista Troester said Tuesday it hopes to have a new coach hired by June 1.
“We would like to be competitive on the national stage and be a top 20 program, but we have to recognize where we are and build from there,” Troester said. She said players signed for next year, including ShaeBug Scarberry of Purcell, have been contacted and indicated they would be attending Tulsa.
Oral Roberts placed 11th, led by Kennedy Ishee, who placed 12th at 220 after a final-round of 70.
1. Oklahoma Sate 287-285-293=865
2. Texas A&M 293-285-292=870
3. Texas Tech 301-293-293=887
4. Texas State 295-295-299=889
5. Mississippi State 284-302-306=892
6. Fresno State 294-298-306=898
7. Tulsa 307-299-305=911
8. Wichita State 308-303-310=921
9. Cincinnati 302-308-312=922
10. Florida Gulf Coast 309-314-307=930
11. Oral Roberts 310-314-310=934
12. USF 318-299-319=936
13. Missouri State 315-311-311=937
T2. Emma Broze (+4) 74-67-73 – 214
T2. Kenzie Neisen (+4) 70-74-70 – 214
11. Stephanie Astrup (+9) 71-73-75 – 219
T20. Chih-Min Chen (+15) 72-78-75 – 225
30. Alexis Sadeghy (+18) 81-71-76 – 228
T33. Emma Whitaker (+20) 79-76-75 – 230
8. Olivia Jackson 72-69-76=217
T9. Johanna Samuelsson 76-72-70=218
T46. Nicole Marquardt 77-78-81=236
T57. Anneke Strobach 82-80-78=240
ORU Individual Results
12 – Kennedy Ishee 73-77-70—220
T43 – Rebecca Hnidka 75-82-78—235
T55 – Annie Lacombe 82-77-79—238
T64 – Natalie Mattison 80-78-85—243
T67 – Beatriz Garcia 83-82-83—248
1. Maddie Szeryk, Texas A&M 70-71-71=212 (+2)
T2. Sasikarn Somboonsup, Texas State 72-72-70=214 (+4)
T2. Kenzie Neison, Oklahoma State 70-74-70=214 (+4)
T2. Emma Broze, Oklahoma State 74-67-73=214 (+4)
T5. Gabby Barker, Texas Tech 73-70-72=215 (+5)
T5. Anne-Cha Mora, Texas State 73-72-70=215 (+5)