PELLA — Making its third NCAA Division III Championships appearance and first since 2019, the Central College women’s golf team opens tournament play Tuesday at the Mission Inn Resort and Club at Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.
The Dutch earned the trip by claiming their 11th American Rivers title by a 42-shot margin last fall. The 29-team field was finalized last Monday. Central is among 24 teams to gain an automatic berth with a conference crown and is the only Iowa school in the field. Teams will play 54 holes over the first three days before the field is whittled to 15 squads, along with the top-six individual players from the remainder of the field, to play Friday’s final round.
Making the trip are the same five players that dominated the conference tourney with Delaney Underwood (senior, Mitchellville, Colfax-Mingo HS), Thea Lunning (senior, Mason City), Mackenzie Biggs (junior, Bloomington, Ill., Normal HS), Madison Clark (senior, Bloomington, Ill., Central Catholic HS) and Lydia Grond (sophomore, Hull, Boyden-Hull HS). Grond was the conference medalist while Lunning, Underwood and Biggs gained all-conference recognition.
The squad arrived in Florida Saturday and has two days to preview the course before play opens Tuesday. Central’s first tee time is at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. While the Mission Inn Resort and Club has played host to the tournament before, it’s new to the Dutch.
“I think there’s water on 11 of the holes and a couple holes where you have to hit over a tree on the approach shot,” coach Tabitha Schumacher said. “It definitely seems like a target golf course. We’re playing it at about 5,800 yards, which isn’t super long. We’re not the longest-hitting team so I think if we can keep the ball where we want to, that could be a benefit for us.”
Live video of the tournament through more than 20 stationary and mobile cameras can be accessed through ncaa.com, which will also feature live scoring and player interviews.
Central failed to make the cut in its previous NCAA trips in 2017 and 2019, but Sarah Paulson scored a couple of all-America finishes when she qualified as an individual for the Dutch, tying for sixth in 2009 and sharing second place in 2012.
Central is not among the top 25 in the Division III Mizuno WGCA Coaches Poll, but Schumacher is convinced her squad has the potential to play in Friday’s final round.
“On paper, we’re not one of those top 15 teams (to make the cut) but we’ve had tournaments this season where we’ve shown we can compete with those teams,” she said. “It’s going to take some solid golf and I think a big thing is just to remember it’s 54 holes of golf, not 18. It’s kind of like conference, we have to go and win each day and play as well as we can play and not give any shots away. Every shot is going to matter and it’s going to take a group effort to make that top 15. And I do think if that happens, it certainly is attainable. There is no reason we should be counting ourselves out.”
The Dutch have not competed since a day of match play with Grinnell College April 23 as weather has limited the team’s practice and competition opportunities.
“The weather hasn’t been amazing so we’ve had to make the most of what we got, but the players are as ready as they’re going to be and they’re excited to get in some sunshine and warm weather and see what we can do,” Schumacher said.
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