Before Methodist College arrived at Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort for the NCAA Division III Women’s Championship, winning the title wasn’t the only thing on the players’ minds. They wanted to make history.
In 2002, Methodist steamrolled the championship field en route to a Division III record 53-shot victory.
“They decided that if they started off well in this tournament, they could break that record,” said coach Vici Pate. “And that’s what they were shooting for.”
So with an All-American-packed roster oozing confidence out of their FootJoys, the Monarchs again took the field by storm, leading by 50 shots after Round 3 and boosting that margin to 76 strokes by the time the final putt was holed May 12, giving Methodist its ninth consecutive Division III title.
Methodist carded a final-round 312 for a four-day total of 72-over 1,240. Second-place Gustavus Adolphus finished at 148-over 1,316 and third place DePauw finished at 1,317. The victory was the Monarchs’ 19th Division III crown in 21 years.
Methodist already had the team competition in their bags after the second round. The Monarchs were 37 shots ahead after 36 holes, so in order to motivate her team to continue its dominance, Pate made an announcement.
“Once we saw that we were all playing pretty well individually in the tournament, we set a goal that we wanted all five of them to finish in the top 10,” said the fourth-year coach.
Again, mission accomplished.
Junior Charlotte Williams’ final-round 79 gave her a tournament total of 16-over 308 and back-to-back individual D-III titles. Senior Colleen Walsh and sophomore Katie Dick tied for second at 20-over 312. Junior Emily Ranney (316) finished sixth and junior Heather Martin (318) tied for eighth.
“I’ve never been more proud of anybody than that group of kids,” Pate said. “They’ve reached every goal we’ve set this year. That’s amazing because we kept setting higher and higher goals.”
Williams took a five-shot lead into the final round, but shot 42 on the front nine, making double bogey at the par-4 sixth and triple bogey at the par-4 ninth. When she made the turn, Williams was just one shot ahead of Dick and two ahead of Walsh.
But Williams rallied. She answered a bogey at the 13th with a birdie on the 14th, then followed another bogey at the 16th with a birdie at the 17th.
Dick and Walsh never got closer than one shot of the lead on the back nine.
“I think I’m good at choking,” Williams joked after her round. “I was a wreck this whole time. I thought about it too much. I was worried about everyone else’s game instead of mine.”
If Williams’ repeat performance was impressive, Walsh’s runner-up effort was the feel-good story of the championship. With her tie for second, the senior capped off her college career with her best finish. Not too shabby for someone who didn’t start traveling with the team until her junior year.
“My game is at a whole different level than it was four years ago,” Walsh said. “It’s just exciting to get up there and putt for birdie. I couldn’t even dream of that my freshman year.”
Pate agreed that Walsh’s game has come a long way.
“Every year she’s improved,” said Pate. “She’s matured. She hits the ball a country mile. And she learned how to putt. You put those together and you can shoot some low numbers. So it’s not surprising to me really. She’s finally put it all together. Everyone on the team is so happy for her. And for it to be her last tournament, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”
The Monarchs finished the season a perfect 80-0 against Division III opponents. Tack on another national championship and one starts to wonder if winning gets a little old.
“It’s always a big deal,” said Williams, an All-American since her freshman year. “Because every year we get someone new. We want everyone to get a ring.
“But I want to graduate with four rings.”