Pacific women capture conference golf championship

GOLF: Fourth title in five years earns Pacific a trip to the Division III National Championships

Pacific earned its first ever trip to the NCAA Division III Women's Golf Championships by winning the Northwest Conference Championship Sunday at Aspen Lakes Golf Course in Sisters.

Pacific placed all four of its scoring golfers in the Top 10 at the NWC Championship, earning the Boxers their fourth conference title in five seasons.

Freshman Tami Park led the way with a third-place finish, followed by sophomore Jasmine Ching in sixth place. That helped the Boxers post the tournament's lowest team round of 682 - 10 strokes better than second-place Whitworth. Defending champion Puget Sound finished third at 712, followed by Linfield (713), George Fox (722), Pacific Lutheran (770) and Willamette (801).

The victory gave Pacific the title in the conference's championship standings with 31.5 points, 6.5 points ahead of Whitworth. It also gave the Boxers the conference's automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division III National Championships, which will be held May 13-16 at the Centennial Oaks Golf Course in Waverly, Iowa.

Park managed to hang on to a top-three finish despite adding five strokes to her score on the second day of the tournament, carding an 86 to finish with a two-day score of 167. Park tied with Puget Sound's Sarah Bicker for third place as both players earned All-NWC honors.

Ching, meanwhile, dropped two strokes off of her score on Sunday with an 85 to finish with a two-day total of 172. Ching's sixth-place finish earned her All-NWC honors for the second straight season. She finished fifth in 2007.

The biggest turnaround of the day, however, belonged to Pacific senior Kelly Hartley. After shooting her highest round of the season on Saturday with a 93, Hartley rebounded to tie her second best round of the year with an 82. Her two-day score of 175 was good enough for seventh place and figured significantly into the Boxers' team scoring.

Junior LeAnna Nash rounded out the scoring quartet, finishing in a four-way tie for eighth place at 176. Freshman Valerie Kitamori finished in a tie for 13th place at 177 and junior Lindsey Huston finished 22nd with a score of 185.

The trip to the national tournament will be Pacific's first since 1997, when the Boxers won the conference championship and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament. The NCAA instituted automatic qualification for Division III teams to the national tournament for the 2007 season.

By virtue of Pacific's team championship, head coach Richard Warren was named the NWC Women's Golf Coach of the Year, marking the fourth time he has earned the honor in his seven years leading the program.