Murray State freshman Lee-Anne Pace used a final-round 71 to win the individual title by seven strokes and lead her golf team to a 23-shot victory over Tennessee Tech at the Lady Racer Classic at Murray, Ky.
Pace, a South African native playing in her first career collegiate tournament, shot a two-day total of 147, seven shots better than Crystal Anglea of Western Kentucky. Pace entered the final round tied for second place after her first round score of 76, but she used the improved scoring conditions to pull away from the field with five birdies during the round, including two on her final three holes, highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 18th hole.
'The weather made it a lot easier to score today and I really hit a lot of solid putts,' said Pace. 'I had been playing well during qualifying, and I really expected to play well this week. Its really great that our team was able win in the first tournament of the spring and were really looking forward to the rest of the season.'
MSU, which fielded two separate teams, won the event with one team having a two-day team total of 647 and MSU Gold, which earned third place in the nine-team field with a 671, just one shot behind Techs 670.
'Obviously, Im very pleased with how we played as a whole, and Im happy with how weve opened the spring,' said 10th-year MSU head coach Velvet Milkman. 'It was a little heartbreaking to not win first and second place because we had set that as our goal, and to come up just one shot away is tough. But I do think we played some pretty good golf this week, and this is a great way to start the season.
'Lee-Anne did a great job this week, and she played really well in her first career college tournament. She brings a lot to our team, not only with the way she plays on the course, but also with her personality and her attitude. She should have a very good career at Murray State.'
Eastern Kentucky finished fourth with a two-day total of 673, followed by Southwest Missouri State in fifth place with a 675. Cincinnati and Western Kentucky tied for sixth with scores of 695 each, while the EKU Maroon squad was eighth at 747 and Tennessee State finished ninth with an 879.
After leading the first round, MSU sophomore April Steenbergen (Russellville, Ky.) closed out the tournament with a very impressive fourth-place finish in the 47-player field with a two-day total of 157. Senior Kelly Wren (South Fulton, Tenn.) finished sixth with a 164, while junior Nikki Orazine (Paducah, Ky.) and sophomore Ashley Kelbough (Victoria, Canada) tied for 10th with two-day totals of 167.
'This was a good early test for our team because we were without Cuyler (Hedley), and we still played very well as a group,' Milkman said. 'We put ourselves in a position to win after the first day, and to pull away the way we did today should really help build a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. It also shows we can win without Cuyler, and that says a lot about this team and our chances this year.'
Hedley, the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, is recovering from a wrist injury and is expected to miss the Lady Racers next event on March 17-18 at the JSU Chris Bannister Classic hosted by Jacksonville State University in Gadsden, Ala.