Saint Leo, Barry sweep Golfweek D2 Fall Invitational at Mission Inn

Lance Ringler/Golfweek

Saint Leo, Barry sweep Golfweek D2 Fall Invitational at Mission Inn

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Saint Leo, Barry sweep Golfweek D2 Fall Invitational at Mission Inn

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HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. – Francesca Santoni won her first tournament at the Golfweek Division II Fall Invitational. As in, first win ever. She had never even won a peewee title.

Santoni, who transferred from Gonzaga to Saint Leo this fall, took up the game as a freshman in high school back home in Torbole Sul Garda, Italy. There were tears at the end of the day at Mission Hills and an immediate call to her parents. She dedicated the long-awaited victory to her grandfather, a sailor who died the same month she arrived in America to start her freshman year of college.

Months before, she’d gotten a tattoo of his favorite jazz song, “La Vie En Rose,” in his handwriting on her left forearm. It was one of the last things he penned before Parkinson’s disease made it impossible.

Francesca Santoni’s tattoo of the song, ““La Vie En Rose,” her grandfather’s favorite song. (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

“I’m glad I did it here,” said Santoni. “It’s the right time.”

Saint Leo trailed by 10 strokes coming into the final round at Mission Hills. The event, shortened to 36 holes due to weather, became a three-team race down the stretch with No. 1 Dallas Baptist battling it out against the Lions on the Las Colinas Course.

Santoni was the only player in the field who broke par, posting an even-par 72 on Tuesday to finish at 4-under 140 for the tournament. Saint Leo’s closing 294 beat every team in the field by at least five strokes in the final round.

The Lions’ 22-over 598 total put them one shot ahead of Dallas Baptist and two ahead of Florida Southern. The Pioneers’ Julia Garcia took a nine on the par-4 10th hole after experiencing trouble off the tee. Her 78 counted for Dallas Baptist after Evelyn Arguelles turned in an 81.

The Saint Leo women’s golf team, winners of the Golfweek Division II Fall Invitational. (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

Head coach Kenny Trapp second-guessed his decision to put Arguelles in the lineup this week. The 2018 U.S. Women’s Open participant recently spent time in the hospital for pneumonia and hadn’t touched a club for nearly two weeks leading up to the event. Trapp said she was throwing up before the start of Tuesday’s round but was determined to finish.

“Bad coach’s decision,” said Trapp. “The player is always going to tell you they’re ready.”

Saint Leo head coach Lyndsey Bevill said her team had been in position the past couple years to win but never finished it off. This is the confidence boost the Lions needed.

“Just to believe in themselves a little bit more,” said Bevill. “I can believe in them all day. They’ve got to believe in themselves.”

Ewart wins men’s individual honors

Freshman A.J. Ewart became the fastest player to win an individual title in Barry’s history, claiming the Golfweek D2 Fall Invitational in his second start. Head coach Jimmy Stobs noted that another Canadian, Adam Svensson, made nine starts before collecting his first title. Svensson now plays on the PGA Tour.

Barry freshman A.J. Ewart and Saint Leo’s Francesca Santoni win individual honors at the Golfweek Division II Fall Invitational (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

“The biggest adjustment A.J. has had to make,” said Stobs, “and he hasn’t quite made it yet, is balancing school, workouts, study hall, golf and social life.”

Now in the midst of a four-week stretch of tournaments, the freshman will be put to the test as Barry tries to carry on its momentum. Ewart’s four-stroke victory came on the strength of two back-nine eagles over El Campeon. After chipping in from the pine straw on the par-5 10th, Ewart knocked in a 12-footer for eagle on the par-5 14th.

The Buccaneers finished ninth in their opening tournament but turned things around in a hurry at Mission Inn, eclipsing the field by 11 shots. Their 9-under 567 total was the only score under par. Lee University placed second.

“It’s always good to win,” said Stobs, “because winning is a habit.”

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