Lindsey, Texas-Tyler chase Methodist at Baytowne

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DESTIN, Fla. – Not even 12 hours in the Texas-Tyler team van could get Laura Lindsey down. Coming to Sandestin Resort, after all, is like coming to Disney World.

“I love this golf course,” Lindsey said of Sandestin’s Baytowne course. “I can make a lot of birdies.”

Last spring, Lindsey won the NCAA Division III National Championship at Baytowne as a freshman. Her goal at the start of the week was to break 80 each day. She started with back-to-back rounds of even-par 72, and after a third-round 77, thought she was out of it. Her dad, however, met her outside the scoring tent that day to shake her hand and tell her she was still leading.

A final-round 75 sealed the deal for Lindsey, who became the first player in Texas-Tyler program history to win a national title. The team finished eight shots behind Mary Hardin Baylor, also the best finish in program history.

“We were hoping to finish in the top 10,” Lindsey said. “We came out of conference hoping to just get the bid.”

On Sunday, Lindsey went 2 under over the first nine holes before closing in 6 over. Her 4-over 76 left her tied for seventh, four off the pace set by Golfweek Invitational defending champion Loretta Giovannettone of Methodist. Texas-Tyler shot 32-over 320, its worst score at Baytowne. Still, that was good enough to leave the Patriots tied for sixth, 24 shots behind leader Methodist. It was a good start-of-the-week gauge for head coach Grant Spencer.

“It’s good to know what your worst-case scenario might be,” Spencer said.

Lindsey’s success has brought increased attention to Texas-Tyler, but Spencer acknowledges that Division III as a whole is getting deeper. Baytowne, he said, is an especially good test, and Spencer was curious to see how his team would handle a return trip here. None of his players left Destin last spring with a big head, but did realize that they could raise the bar a little higher.

This week, Spencer wanted good memories but not too much pressure -- especially for Lindsey.

“Coming back here with her was interesting because on one hand, you want her to think about how well she did here but you also don’t want her to have the pressure to do it again,” he said.

Lindsey spent the summer working hard on chipping and putting to stay at the top level of the game. Most of her golf peers realize that because of the nature of the game, she’s not likely to come off a national title and win every subsequent start. The pressure and the attention came more from non-golf friends.

Before that national title, Lindsey names her greatest golf achievement as winning a 4A State High School Championship with Montgomery (Texas) High School. Lindsey learned the game under legendary coach Rusty Herridge. As a freshman, she struggled to break 100. Four years later, she’s a national champion.

“Montgomery is a great program to be a part of,” she said of her roots.

Lindsey is recognizable on the course because of a powerful swing. She’s also the girl who carries the tie-dyed golf towel and elephant headcover. The latter was a gift from a friend. Together, they named the elephant “albatross,” a golf feat Lindsey has yet to accomplish. It joined her bag before last year’s national championship, which makes it just a little bit lucky.

It’s one of many good memories this week for Lindsey.

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