Stars begin chase of ninth NAIA championship Tuesday at Lincoln Park

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City University will seek its ninth national championship when the NAIA women’s golf championships come to Lincoln Park Golf Course on Tuesday through Friday.

The Stars, ranked 11th, have intimate knowledge of the course, which will set up as a par-72, 6,050-yard layout.

Oklahoma City has prepared for the NAIA Championships by playing three tournaments – winning two – at Lincoln Park this season. The Stars come off capturing the Sooner Athletic Conference championship on April 19-20 at Lincoln Park.

The 54-hole, four-day tournament tees off the first two days 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. the final two days. Fans can follow the tournament via Golfstat live scoring. There will be video recaps available daily at 8 p.m. via OCU and NAIA social media. Representatives from the competing teams will partner with First Tee of Oklahoma to provide a Champions of Character golf clinic at 4 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Park Golf Course.

OCU will be among 19 teams and a 156-player field vying for the team and individual national championships. SCAD Savannah (Ga.) took the national title May 25, 2018 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Maria Paula Otero of SCAD Savannah will return to defend her individual national crown.

In the NAIA Championship Fall Preview on Oct. 15-16 at Lincoln Park, SCAD Savannah won the team title, while Katie Dalton of Dalton State (Ga.) collected the individual crown. Keiser (Fla.) holds the No. 1 ranking, while SCAD Savannah stands second.

The Stars own national championships won in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2017. OCU fields a lineup including Melissa EldredgeNatalie GoughLauryn PritchardLauren Behnken and McKenzie McCoyThe Stars tee off Tuesday between 8:10-8:42 a.m. off the No. 1 tee.

“We have certainly struggled some this year, and to see our vast improvements over the past few weeks speaks volumes about how hard the girls have worked,” OCU coach Marty McCauley said after leading the Stars to the SAC title for the seventh time. “We know that we still have a lot of work to do before nationals, but this is very, very encouraging.”

Eldredge, a junior from Eufaula, reeled in the SAC individual crown and garnered the SAC player of the year, two SAC golfer of the week nods and an NAIA golfer of the week award. Eldredge has supplied OCU with a 76.13 stroke average, 53 birdies, five top-10 finishes and two victories this season. She earned all-tournament acclaim in contributing to the Stars winning the 2017 national crown.

Gough and Pritchard also became all-conference performers. Gough, a freshman from Bixby,  has posted a 76.70 scoring average, three top-five showings and 42 birdies in 23 rounds this season. Gough picked up all-tournament with her fourth-place showing in the SAC Championships. Pritchard, a freshman from Allen, Texas, has produced 78.65 shots per round and 36 birdies in 23 rounds in 2018-19. Pritchard owns two top-10 finishes and a win this season. She split the Southwestern Christian Invitational title with Eldredge.

Behnken, a freshman from Tulsa, has carded an 82.15 stroke average with two top-10 finishes, and McCoy, a sophomore from Beggs,  has provided OCU with an 81.25 scoring average and a top-five finish.

The NAIA Championships will come back to Lincoln Park on May 12-15, 2020.

Temperatures are expected to reach the low to mid 80s throughout the tournament. Winds could range between 10-15 mph. The chance for rain is between 10 and 30 percent with Wednesday the highest chance for precipitation.


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Ken MacLeod

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