DESTIN, Fla. — The wait is over.
After 13 years and numerous brushes with greatness, the Mary Hardin-Baylor women’s golf team is finally the national champion again.
Despite difficult course conditions and a back-and-forth battle with a pesky conference rival the Cru brought home the first NCAA Division III national championship in school history with an eight-stroke victory at the Women’s Golf National Championships.
The win is the second national title in UMHB athletic history. The women’s golf team also won the 2000 NAIA national championship.
UMHB also ended Methodist University’s 15-year championship run.
“I am so proud of my teammates and the way they stepped up this week,” former Salado standout Taylor O’Rear said. “I am so excited. There are no words.”
Led by O’Rear, the Cru finished with a four-day team score of 1,239 (306-311-311-311) to win by eight strokes over American Southwest Conference rival UT-Tyler.
O’Rear posted a final-round 72 to finish third overall with a total of 300 (79-75-74-72). Elizabeth Davis fired a 316 (75-81-81-80) to tie for 15th place, former Harker Heights star Kelly Gonyea (76-78-84-79—317) tied for 18th, Victoria Thane (76-87-75-83—321) tied for 26th, and Sara Eckert tied for 28th after shooting 84-77-82-79—322.
UT-Tyler’s Laura Lindsay won the individual championship with a score of 295 (72-77-77-74).
The Patriots shot 1,247 (309-308-318-312) to claim second place. Methodist (318-313-317-311—1259) finished third, George Fox University (319-304-320-324—1267) took fourth and Williams College (330-304-323-325—1282) rounded out the top five in the 21-team field.
After starting the program from scratch in 1996, UMHB head coach Darla Kirby led the Cru to 10 ASC championships and 13 postseason appearances, including nine NCAA tournaments.
The team finished in the top-five in each of its 10 tournaments this season, including victories at the Alamo Classic, Jekyll Island Women’s College Invitational and ASC Women’s Golf Championship.
Individually, O’Rear won at the Golfweek Division III Fall Preview and Alamo Classic this season to go with her second consecutive individual title at the ASC Championship Tournament. Ashley Garbade, Allison Holly and Emily Santos also competed for the Cru this season as UMHB became just the second school to win a national championship since the tournament became solely a Division III competition in 2000.
“I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to coach these girls,” said Kirby, who was named West Region Coach of the Year and national coach of the year this season. “I could not be more proud of their accomplishment and their efforts this week. This has been a tremendous experience and I am so glad to have been a part of it. To win a national championship in my last season as a coach is something I cannot even describe.”
UMHB posted four consecutive runner-up finishes from 2002-2005. The Cru finished sixth in last year’s tournament.