By Ken MacLeod
Photos by Rip Stell
STILLWATER, Okla. – Coaches of all three state schools competing in the Cowgirl Match Play at Stillwater Country Club Sunday and Monday left with much to be encouraged about as their teams prepare for their respective conference tournaments and beyond.
Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each emerged with 2-1 records while Tulsa went 0-3, but battled each of the three Big 12 schools gamely, including nearly pulling off an upset of the No. 7 Cowgirls Monday morning.
The Cowgirls, supported by a crowd including coaches of most of the university’s various sports as well as former All-America Cowboy golfers such as four-time PGA Tour winner David Edwards and two-time State Amateur champion Jeff McMillian, were declared the winner on a tie-breaker thanks to their 5 ½ individual wins against OU and TTU, which finished with 5 and 4 ½ wins, respectively.
It was the Sooners, however, who probably left feeling giddy after knocking off their Bedlam rivals in the afternoon’s final pairing 3-2. It came down to the fifth and final match, and Mikhaela Fortuna delivered, stopping a downwind pitch shot 2 feet from the cup for birdie on the 17th hole to close out OSU’s Maddison Hinson-Tolchard 3 and 1.
“A great shot, but she’s so good with her wedges,” said OU coach Veroniqu Drouin-Luttrell. “She didn’t hesitate at all, just pulled the club and hit it.
“This is a nice boost for us. The NCAA Championship is match play but we seldom get to play it during the regular season. We’ll leave here with some confidence and hopefully continue to build on it.”
The event was pulled together in the last two weeks by OSU coach Greg Robertson after an event in Houston that most of the teams had been scheduled to play was canceled. Stillwater Country Club superintendent Jared Wooten was likely mortified to find out he was hosting a college event less than two weeks after he had aerified the greens, but he had the course in good shape for the competitors.
Also winning for OU in the Bedlam match were Kaitlin Milligan, 2 and 1 over Rina Tatematsu, and Hannah Screen, 1 up over Lianna Bailey. For the Cowgirls, Isabella Fierro defeated Maria Fernanda Martinez 2 and 1 while Han Hsuan-Yu defeated Libby Winans 3 and 2.
The Cowgirls were missing top player Maja Stark, who had to fly home to Sweden to complete some immigration paperwork after competing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week. She is expected to return to Stillwater Tuesday.
Also competing and registering a top-20 finish in that event was Milligan, who said it was the thrill of a lifetime.
Texas Tech, which fell to OSU Sunday, edged the Sooners 3-2 Monday morning and downed Tulsa 4-0-1 in the afternoon to finish at 2-1.
Robertson will be glad to have Stark back as the team prepares for the Big 12 Championship April 18-20 at the Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. He was a bit dismayed how the Sooners were able to take commanding leads early in most of the matches on an unfamiliar course to them and one his players know well.
“We’ve got work to do,” he said. “They were up on us early and up significantly in most matches. We did battle back. Overall it was a good event and I’m glad we were able to have it.”
Tulsa’s No. 1 player Lorena Tseng had a chance to give her team a huge upset over OSU in the morning, but Fierro overcame a two-hole deficit with five holes to play and won the match with a birdie on the par-3 ninth. Lilly Thomas and Haley Grub won their matches for Tulsa against Tatematsu and Hinson-Tolchard.
“We’re getting better,” said Tulsa coach Annie Young. “We battled hard against three very good top 30 teams. Lorena is a great player, but so is Isabella and it went right down to the last shot.”
Tulsa will compete in the American Conference Championship April 18-20 at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 6 course. Young said the team probably needs a top-3 finish at the conference championship to secure a bid to regional play.