Both the NAIA No. 4-ranked Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University women’s golf team and the Eagles’ men’s squad qualified for Nationals on Wednesday by winning their respective conferences for the second straight season.
In the nine-team NAIA West Women’s Championship at Hiddenbrooke Golf Course in Vallejo, California, Lauren Kruszewski (77-78-74, 229) led the ERAU program by claiming her fourth consecutive individual title.
Embry-Riddle’s men’s squad came from behind to win the six-team Cal Pac Conference Championship, also at Hiddenbrooke. Matt Andrews captured his second straight individual crown and league Player of the Year award, but he needed a playoff to do so.
ERAU’s women’s program has now won three league crowns. The men’s program has won four.
“We are extremely proud of both teams, and Lauren and Matt, for consecutive player of the year honors and medalist honors,” Embry-Riddle coach Kim Haddow said. “What an exciting tournament for everyone. We look forward to preparing for the NAIA National Championships.”
Kruszewski also took home her fourth conference tourney Player of the Year award. Four of the Top 5 finishers at the par-72, 5,809-yard West championship came from ERAU, earning the Prescott-based university every spot on the Cal Pac All-Conference Team.
In the process, ERAU nabbed an automatic bid into the NAIA Women’s Golf National Championships May 23-26 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Teeing off against teams from the Cal Pac Conference and the Golden State Athletic Conference, the Eagles women dominated the NAIA West tournament.
ERAU finished +19 as a team for the three-round, 72-hole event. The Eagles wound up 22 shots in front of second-place Biola (California). Marymount (California), which improved its score in each successive round, took third. Hope International (California), six strokes behind Marymount, was fourth.
Arizona Christian, Simpson (California), Benedictine-Mesa and Sierra Nevada (California) finished fifth through eighth, respectively.
A three-time first team All-American, Kruszewski shot a +2 (74) in the final round, besting teammate Elle Carlson (76-82-74, 232), who was second, by three strokes.
Trae Jones (third; 79-81-80, 240), Nicole Lopes (fourth; 79-83-79, 241) and Jessica Williams (seventh; 82-79-86, 247) rounded out the Eagles’ top finishers.
By the end of regulation on Wednesday, Andrews (80-69-74, 223) had tied Marymount’s Michael Padilla (73-79-71, 223) for a cumulative score of +7 on the 6,241-yard par 72 course. Andrews birdied his last two holes in the third and final round to send the Eagles to a playoff tiebreaker.
Marymount forced the tiebreaker by finishing the final round with a team score of 293, 12 shots better than ERAU.
Sierra Nevada placed third, 14 strokes behind the leaders, while Simpson dropped two spots from Tuesday’s second round to finish fourth. Benedictine-Mesa was fifth and Cal Maritime snagged sixth.
In the playoff, Andrews snatched the title from Padilla in dramatic fashion. ERAU won the fifth playoff hole on all pars to Marymount’s two pars and two bogeys.
Lewis Breslin (seventh; 80-72-75, 227), Kyle Peterson (tied, ninth; 78-74-78, 230) and Garrett Hogan (tied, ninth; 83-69-78, 23) also finished among the Top 10 for the Eagles.
Embry-Riddle’s men have now automatically qualified for the NAIA Men’s Golf Championship May 16-19 at TPC Deere Run in Moline, Illinois.
The NAIA will officially announce national-qualifying teams later this week. There will be 22 automatic qualifiers (those that won or placed second in their conference, independent or unaffiliated group tournaments), six at-large berths, the host team and 11 individual qualifiers.
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2039, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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