Oklahoma State is still in search of the athletic department’s first NCAA national championship in a women’s sport.
For the first time in five years, an OSU women’s program was on the cusp of achieving that illustrious goal. But alas, the Cowgirl golf program fell to Ole Miss – which won its first national championship in a women’s sport – in Wednesday’s title match in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“I think we’re close in a lot of sports on the women’s side to doing something like this,” Cowgirl coach Greg Robertson said. “I wish we would have gotten it done today, but there’s no reason we can’t get some banners up with some women’s sports in Gallagher-Iba (Arena) pretty soon.”
While Ole Miss flooded onto the green to celebrate its championship, the Cowgirls – which included 11 members of the team not on the starting roster, many of whom had to pay their own way to Arizona – huddled off the green with hugs and tears on finishing just short of winning the ultimate goal.
Through the hurt and watching the jubilation of their opponents, Robertson had his Cowgirls greet and congratulate Ole Miss for its title.
“I love them, I’m proud of them and they need to keep their head up,” Robertson said. “They’ve accomplished a lot this year.”
The clinching point for Ole Miss came at a spot in the lineup in which Oklahoma State hadn’t seen any sort of deficit throughout the championship.
Isabella Fierro, who headed into the match as the only player in the tournament to not trail in match play, looked to be on point of carrying that over into the championship.
She won the first hole and got out two up through the first five holes, but then her opponent Andrea Lignell came storming back – tying it just before the turn and again right after the turn when Fierro won the ninth hole. Then for the first time this week, Fierro found herself down in a match when she lost the 13th hole to the Ole Miss golfer.
On the ensuing hole, Lignell did not concede a three-foot putt to the Cowgirl that would have halved the hole. And the move worked in her favor with Fierro missing the putt to go two down and set up the scenario on No. 17 where Fierro had to win the hole to advance the match.
The first point Ole Miss claimed in the match came in the other spot the Cowgirls had been able to rely on this week.
Maja Stark had been leading Oklahoma State throughout the tournament, finishing tied for 12th, alongside freshman teammates Rina Tatematsu in the stroke-play portion of the event.
Stark, a sophomore from Abbekas, Sweden, is currently ranked No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, had picked up wins in the quarterfinal win over Auburn and the semifinal against Duke (which was OSU’s largest win of match play with a 4-and-3 victory).
But against Ole Miss senior Kennedy Swann, ranked No. 83 in the WAGR, Stark had a similar start and finish as Fierro.
Claiming the first lead of the match by winning the third hole, Stark relinquished it two holes later and by the seventh hole found herself down. It was part of a five-hole stretch in which Swann won four holes to go 3 up on Stark.
The Cowgirl would fight her way back, though, trimming the deficit to one through 13 holes. But she never could get it back to even, and lost the 17th hole to end her match with a 2-and-1 loss.
The second point scored by Ole Miss came in the third match, with OSU’s Lianna Bailey never finding much of a rhythm – losing to Chiara Tamburlini, 6-and-5.
The only match Oklahoma State was leading in when Ole Miss secured the championship was in the closer role by freshman Maddison Hinson-Tolchard. She held a four-up advantage over freshman Smilla Sonderby when the clinching point was won by Ole Miss.
In the other match still being played, Tatematsu – Oklahoma State’s other freshman in the starting lineup – was trailing by four.
“We’re not done. We’ve got a young team,” Robertson said. “… They’re going to be back. This is great experience for them, and hopefully, if we’re back in the same situation against next year, they can learn from this and have different results.”
Based on eligibility, Oklahoma State could be returning all of its starters – and have a top 250 world amateur who has signed to join the program. Though there is still uncertainty on the future Stark, with Fierro having said Tuesday she was worried about the potential of Stark turning pro.
“With the success she’s had in college golf, I suppose that’s an option for her,” Robertson said. “… She’s got to do what’s best for her, and we’ll see what that is in the end.”