Ole Miss poses for a trophy selfie. (Photo Credit: Ole Miss Athletics)
In a match play field filled with former champions and star-studded rosters featuring some of the top female amateurs in the world, it was the Ole Miss Rebels who came away with the national championship on Wednesday, defeating Oklahoma State, 4-1-0 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Ole Miss, seeded fourth among the eight teams which advanced to the match play portion of the event, disposed of No. 5 seed Texas and 2018 national champion Arizona to earn a spot in Wednesday afternoon's title match against Oklahoma State, a program also in search of its first national title.
With the sunlight fading against the McDowell Mountains, sophomore Andrea Lignell calmly rolled in a 8-foot par putt to close out Isabella Fiero, 2&1 and deliver Ole Miss' first-ever national championship in women's golf. It was the school's first national championship since the football claimed the 1962 title and also marked the first national championship by any of Ole Miss' women's programs.
Chiara Tumburlini set the tone early for the Rebels, putting the first point on the board with a dominant 6 & 5 victory over Oklahoma State's Lianna Bailey. It was Tumburlini's first point of the week and also set the record for the largest margin of victory since the inception of the match play segment in 2015.
Fifth-year senior Kennedy Swann put the Rebels up 2-0 with a 2&1 victory over Maja Stark, who is the ninth-rated female amateur in the world in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com's rankings. Swann was rock-solid for the Rebels all week, winning all three of her matches to run her career record in match play to 10-2. Swann was 3-up in the match heading to the back nine but Stark managed to cut the deficit to one by winning holes 11 and 13. The Austin, Texas native didn't blink and managed to hold off Stark to bring the Rebels to the brink of winning their first national championship.
In the second pairing, Lingell rallied from a two-hole deficit to overtake Fierro on hole No. 13 and never looked back, eventually sinking the winning putt that brought the national championship home to Jackson, Miss.
Despite being cast in the roll of underdog, Ole Miss' veteran players knew the kind of mark they were destined to leave.
“No one ever thought that we could do this, no one ever believed in us,” Johnson said, the senior in tears. “It’s just really special. I knew, I just knew when I came here.”
Swann, a fifth-year senior who began her collegiate career at Clemson, was all smiles and echoed a similar sentiment.
“When I came into this program a couple of years ago, we were nowhere close, but we worked our tails off to get to the point where we’re at now,” Swann said. “We’ve finally proven that we belong here. We just won a national championship. Ole Miss is a good team that is here to stay and will be around for a long time.”
ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Women's Championship
30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying
team make up the field for the championship of
Division I women's golf.
After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual
champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance
match play to determine the team champion.
View Complete Tournament Information