Irish golfer Ann Marie Dalton saved her best for last on Wednesday as she took her first US collegiate individual title in the final tournament of her career with High Point University.
The Carlow woman took individual medalist honours at the Big South Conference Championship after rallying in the final round to force a play-off and then coming through a five-hole play-off at the Patriot Golf Club in South Carolina.
Dalton final round 73 was the equal best of the tournament and helped her make up a seven-stroke deficit on tournament leader Olivia Jordan-Higgins of Charleston Southern and level the 54-hole scores at 229.
There was no separating the pair either when they went into the sudden-death play-off, matching each other shot for shot over four extra holes before Dalton finally got her nose in front by parring the par-five fifth hole as Jordan-Higgins bogeyed.
“It is just an amazing feeling,” Dalton said. “I am so excited to finally win a collegiate tournament and I can't think of a better way to end my career than by winning the Big South Championship.
“I felt like I played pretty well all three days, but today I was very relaxed on the course. I was just out there having fun and trying to enjoy the round. I feel like my putting was the difference in the play-off. This is a huge success not only for me but also the High Point University golf programme.”
Dalton is the first High Point golfer to win a Big South Conference title, which also earned her a place on the All-Big South squad in addition to the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year award she was handed last Monday.
Galway’s Sinead O’Sullivan did not add to her individual title tally this week but she helped East Tennessee State University’s women’s team win its first conference championship and a berth in next month’s national championships at the NCAA Regionals.
O’Sullivan, who last month won her maiden collegiate title at the University of South Alabama’s Lady Jaguar Invitational, saw team-mate Laura Jansone take the individual honours in Jonesborough, Tennessee, on Wednesday at the Atlantic Sun Conference Women’s Golf Championships.
O’Sullivan finished tied for seventh on 14-over-par 230 (78, 74, 78), just four shots back from Jansone as all five ETSU team members placed in the top nine to hand the Lady Buccaneers a 25-stroke victory over nearest rivals Campbell University.
“I’m so proud of this team and what Laura was able to do,” ETSU head coach Stefanie Shelton said.
“I am really beside myself. To win for the first time is obviously one of those steps every program wants to take to get to nationals. To have everyone on our team finish in the top nine is unbelievable. This is the realisation of a dream.”
The NCAA regionals begin May 8 with the top 12 teams progressing to the national finals, the NCAA Championships, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on May 20-23.
In men’s collegiate golf, Dubliner David Rawluk tasted victory on a rare outing for fourth-ranked Charlotte as the 49ers won the Palisades Collegiate Classic for the fourth year in a row in North Carolina on Tuesday.
Rawluk, from Malahide, was the fifth and final man home for Charlotte, shooting 228 (72, 72, 84) as the team withstood gusty winds and a strong surge from eventual runner-up Virginia Commonwealth University.
An Irish quartet helped Francis Marion University finish 10th in the 54-hole event, with Dubliner Peter McGibney 29th at 221, Corkman Keith Crowley tied for 42nd at 225, and two more Dubliners, Andrew Pitcher and Ronan O’Connor, tying for 49th (226) and 68th (237) respectively.
The men’s Southland Conference Championship in Lake Charles, Louisiana, saw two Irishmen in the top 20 at the par 72, 7,233-yard Gray Plantation.
Texas-San Antonio’s Thomas Kearney, from Donegal, tied for eighth with a five-over 221 total, while Omagh’s Fergal Rafferty finished on nine over and tied for 17th for Sam Houston State, which finished tied runner-up.
Kearney’s Texas-San Antonio tied for fourth place in the team standings.