By Ken MacLeod
Perhaps no one was more pleased at the news the women’s NAIA National Championship was moving to Edmond than one of the top players for No. 1 ranked Dalton State.
Due to the COVID-19 situation in Michigan, the event was moved from Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti, Mich., to Rose Creek Golf Club in Edmond. The 2021 event is scheduled to take place May 25-28, 2021 and will be hosted by Oklahoma City University.
That makes the event a homecoming of sorts for Sydney Hermann, the former Ponca City star now in her sophomore season for the Dalton State Roadrunners.
Not only did OKC coach Marty McCauley step up to find a home, he may have saved the chance to Hermann and her teammaes to win the school’s second national title. The NAIA was set to pull the plug on the tournament after Michigan backed out.
“When I heard it was coming to Oklahoma City I was so excited,” Hermann said. “I figured it would go to Lincoln Park. I’ve never actually played Rose Creek, so I’m looking forward to seeing that. And I know most of the OCU players.”
It will be a chance for Hermann’s family and friends to watch her compete in a high stakes environment without a great deal of travel. Dalton State is located in Dalton, Ga., a picturesque community where the players have access to play and practice at The Farm, a difficult but spectacular Tom Fazio design, as well as two other nearby courses.
“It’s really a great place,” Hermann said, “The whole community really supports each other. The guys team and the girls team are close, we all go to each other’s birthday dinners or other special events. I’m just really enjoying it here.”
Hermann has played in four events this year, finishing in the top 10 in all and the top five in two of them and boasts a stroke average of 76.9.
She said the Dalton State team’s strength is its balance, with any of the five starters capable of leading the team in a given event.
“We’re all pretty much the same,” she said. “We all have the ability to shoot low scores and we’re a pretty good team when it comes to needing that 75 to post.”
Hermann knows OCU players such as Lauren Behnken, Rachel Eckert, Natalie Gough and McKenzie McCoy.
“We grew up playing together,” she said. “It will be exciting to see them again.”
Herman, who is majoring in business management, returned home last summer and entered the Women’s State Amateur Championship, where she made it all the way to the finals before losing to University of Tulsa coach Annie Young,
OCU prepares to host NAIA Championship
Oklahoma City University takes aim at its ninth national title as the NAIA women’s golf championships return to the metro area Tuesday at Rose Creek Golf Club.
The NAIA Championships were slated for Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti, Mich., but were relocated to Rose Creek due to restrictions on athletic events in the northern area.
The most recent NAIA national tournament took place May 14-17, 2019 at Lincoln Park Golf Course in Oklahoma City. Michela Tjan, a sophomore from Jakarta, Indonesia, took the individual title in 2019 and will lead second-ranked Keiser (Fla.). Dalton State (Ga.) holds the No. 1 ranking.
The 17th-ranked Stars have taken three wins in eight tournaments this season. Oklahoma City will take to the course during the afternoon group, teeing off at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday on No. 1. The tournament tees off 8 a.m. the first two rounds and the final round Friday. On Thursday, the tournament begins 10 a.m.
Natalie Gough of the Stars became the two-time Sooner Athletic Conference player of the year. Gough, a junior from Bixby, Okla., posted her third consecutive top-three finish of the season in the SAC Championships on April 26-27 at Dornick Hills Golf & Country Club in Ardmore, Okla. Gough has forged a 77.25 scoring average in 2020-21.
OCU’s Lauren Behnken captured the SAC individual crown for her first career tournament win. Behnken, a junior from Tulsa, Okla., has accumulated a 79.17 stroke average with five top-10 showings on the season.
Clair Hill, a senior from Gig Harbor, Wash., has supplied the Stars with 79.88 shots per round with three top-five finishes and a win this season. Rounding out OCU’s roster are McKenzie McCoy (80.94 scoring average), Rachel Eckert (81.47) and Arianna Medina (83.33).
The Stars finished fourth in the 2019 NAIA Championships. OCU has collected eight national crowns in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2017.
Oklahoma City returns to Rose Creek Golf Club for the first time since taking its sixth NAIA Region VI and SAC championship April 28-29, 2008. The tournament field of 156 golfers and 20 teams will compete for the national title at the par-72, 6,102-yard course. Rose Creek Golf Club features a links-style layout designed by Arthur Hills. Fairways stretch through naturally rolling terrain, tree-lined creeks and native grasses. Over 50 strategically placed bunkers add extra beauty and challenge, while water comes into play on 12 holes.
The next year’s NAIA Championships are set for Lincoln Park Golf Course in Oklahoma City on May 24-27, 2022.