No. 1 OCU Stars ready to host NAIA National Championship at Lincoln Park

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Top-ranked Oklahoma City University gets the opportunity to take the national title in the metro area in the NAIA women’s golf championships starting Tuesday with the first round at Lincoln Park Golf Course.

The tournament lasts four rounds with the final round Friday. The Stars will be among the first group to make the first shots of the tournament 8 a.m. Tuesday off the No. 1 tee.

The NAIA Championships return to the Oklahoma City area for the third time in a row. The tournament took place at Rose Creek Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., last May, while the 2019 NAIA Championships were contested at Lincoln Park. Keiser (Fla.), which enters the tournament ranked No. 2, captured the national championship by 19 shots May 25-28, 2021 at Rose Creek.

Oklahoma City will vie for its ninth national championship. The Stars own eight national titles won in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2017. In 2021-22, Oklahoma City has accumulated eight tournament titles to tie for the second most victories in a season. The 2007-08 Stars set the program mark by winning nine events, including the national title.

“We’re very excited to host the nation’s best teams here in Oklahoma City out at Lincoln Park,” said OCU coach Marty McCauley, who has led the Stars to three national crowns. “It’s going to be a great event. Lincoln Park is in terrific shape. I feel very confident our girls have a good feel for the course. All we got to do is relax and play golf, and everything will work out fine. The field is very good. Any of the top 10 to 12 teams have a chance at winning depending on how they play that given week. I’m overly confident in our group because of their maturity and their love for one another.”

The Stars snatched up the Sooner Athletic Conference title by a dominating 28 strokes April 25-26 at The Territory Golf & Country Club in Duncan, Okla. OCU had the largest margin of victory in the SAC Championships since taking the 2009 conference crown by 59 shots.

OCU collected fourth-place finishes in the NAIA Championships at Rose Creek and Lincoln Park. In the 2019 NAIA Championships, the Stars set the 72-hole program record with their team score of 287-319-296-293–1,195. Nine teams bested the previous record team 72-hole score in the NAIA Championships.

This season, Oklahoma City has turned in the top team round (272, Rose Creek Classic, Oct. 4-5), best 36-hole score twice (560, Southwestern Christian Invitational, Sept. 7-8; Sydney Cox Invitational, Oct. 11-12) and the top four 54-hole scores (846, Rose Creek Classic) in team history. OCU is on pace to set the single-season team scoring average mark – the Stars have forged a 292.66 team stroke average, which would top the 2016-17 squad’s 305.96.

Reagan Chaney, Maddi Kamas and Natalie Gough enter the NAIA Championships with the top three individual scoring average numbers in the Oklahoma City annals and rank among the top five nationally this season in that category. Chaney, a freshman from Ardmore, Okla., has produced 72.55 strokes per round with the best 18-hole score (34-30–64), No. 1 two-round score (64-69–133) and finest three-round score (70-68-67–205) this season. Chaney, the conference player of the year, has picked up a program-record 92 birdies and three victories. Chaney highlights three freshmen in the OCU lineup.

Kamas owns a 73.07 scoring average with three wins, including the conference individual title with a 71-73-71–215. Kamas, a freshman from Kingfisher, Okla., became the SAC freshman of the year, NAIA golfer of the week twice and a three-time tournament winner this season.

Gough, a senior from Bixby, Okla., has posted a 73.76 stroke average and a win this season. The three-time all-American earned all-tournament in the NAIA Championships with a ninth-place finish last year.

Rachel Eckert, a senior from Bixby, Okla., has averaged 75.91 shots per 18 holes and snagged the best finish of her career in the SAC Championships (tied for second) in 2021-22. Paige Wood, a freshman from McKinney, Texas, has supplied the Stars with a 75.45 scoring average.

“This year I feel like without a doubt we have an amazing chance to win nationals,” Eckert said. “That’s what you want in your final season. I can’t think of a better way to go out than winning so many tournaments and having this great chance of winning nationals. Part of my big reason for coming to OCU was winning mentality and championship mindset, seeing all the rings Coach McCauley has. This team is such a family. That’s probably the biggest reason I came here.”

OCU has won both of its tournaments hosted at Lincoln Park Golf Course this season. The tournament will be held on the par-72, 6,017-yard West Course. Lincoln Park is celebrating 100 years, during which the venue rates as one of Oklahoma’s finest public golf courses. Oklahoma City’s oldest public golf course unveiled its new state-of-the-art $9.25 million club house in spring 2015. The Art Jackson-designed course features bent grass on the greens and Bermuda grass on the fairways.

The weather forecast calls for high temperatures in the 70s with the temperature rising to the mid-80s on the last day. The chance for rain for the first two days is at 58 percent, then lowers to 20 percent and 11 percent over the last two days.

The NAIA Championships will be at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., in 2023 and 2024.


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Ken MacLeod

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