PANAMA CITY, Fla. – With senior Courtney Shelton and sophomore Bernadette Little leading the way, the Lee women's golf team completed a clean sweep of the NCCAA National Championship on Wednesday afternoon. Not to be outdone by the ladies, who finished their championship round earlier in the afternoon, the Lee men's golf team turned back a challenge by Dallas Baptist and captured the 2013 NCCAA National Championship on Wednesday afternoon.
In only its fifth season of intercollege competition, the Lee ladies joined the Lee men's team in winning a national championship in golf for the first time in school history. The Lady Flames turned away solid competition from Dallas Baptist, Oklahoma Christian and Point Loma (Calif.) to claim the title.
"I'll say this about the performance today," said Lee's proud coach John Maupin. "I have never seen a team more ready to play than the girls were this morning. The championship was won on the front nine, just a remarkable start, and I think that made all the difference."
Shelton became the first Lee golfer to cart the medalist honors back to Cleveland. After brilliant rounds of 68-69 in the two opening rounds, the Franklin, Tenn. native finished the 54-hole event on Wednesday with a 74, and her 211 total was seven strokes better than teammate Little's 218 (second place). However, Little's 71 was the tournament's Wednesday's be round on the Hombre Club course.
"Courtney put on a clinic this week," noted Maupin about the play of his All-American. It's hard to explain someone winning a national title by seven shots. But make no mistake; this was earned by a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears. It was fun to watch our girls play that well."
As a team Lee puts scores of 301-295-301 – 897 on the board. Dallas Baptist (910) was three strokes off the pace. Oklahoma Christian University (923) placed third and Point Loma (935) was fourth, followed by Shorter's (945).
Freshman Cori Burns posted Lee's third best round (75) on Wednesday and her three-day total was 234. Collie Kitchens (81) also turned in a score that counted in the final round. Her finally tally was 242. Madison Alexander slipped to an 82 on Wednesday but still finished the action with a 235.
"I'm proud of our entire team," Maupin added. "It was definitely a total team effort. Bernadette (Little) has stepped up in a major way this year. Today was the toughest the course played all week and she goes out and shoots 71, that's guts. Cori Burns did not play like a freshman today. She was so impressive with her mental game. These girls went out and took this tournament today, and that's what I'm most excited about."
The Lady Flames will return to Cleveland and host their own tournament before closing out the fall season. The Lady Flames Shootout is slated for Oct. 38-29 at the Cleveland Country Club. I am at a loss for words, what an unbelievable day.
SIDENOTES: "To say that I'm proud of these kids (both teams) would be an understatement. They deserve this and they earned it. On top of playing some great golf, these are exceptional kids, and it was a very special week for our program. I need to really thank (assistants) Jayne (Maupin) and Alex (Ratliff), it's impossible to be two places at once, and we could not have done it without them this week. They coached their tails off. It was a lot of ground to cover.
"We also want to thank the NCCAA and the Hombre, this was a very well-run event and they made it about the kids this week.
"We are going to sit back and enjoy this one!" – John Maupin
Marking a first national crown for a Lee men's golf team, the Flames closed the 54 hole, three-day event with rounds of 291-287-291 - 869. Dallas Baptist put a little heat of the Flames by finishing two strokes back, 289-295-292 – 871. Southern Wesleyan put out a solid effort (878), and Oklahoma Christian, a long-time golfing power, followed at 879. North Greeneville (S.C.) moved up to fifth (893).
"What a way to finish the semester," said an excited coach John Maupin. "This easily completes the best semester we have ever had. No way could we have known at the beginning of the year that this team would get three wins and a national championship. These guys are a blast to be around, and they don't back down from anything. Today was far from the best we played, but that's what makes it so satisfying; our guys never quit and kept grinding to the end. I do think today's round shaved three years off my life.
"I thought our back nine the last two days was the difference in the tournament," the coach pointed out. "We were minus 8 yesterday and minus 1 today to close it out. "We talk a lot about having a closer mentality and they did it this week."
Senior Matt Emery paced the Lee scoring on Wednesday. He came in with a 2-under 70 and finished with a 218, good enough for a tie for ninth.
"Our seniors are the backbone of this team," Maupin noted. "This really cements all the things they've accomplished. Matt (Emery) and Hunter (Vest) have been incredible all semester long, and once again they came through when we needed it most."
Freshman Shea Sylvester was Lee's top tourney finisher. After back to back rounds of 70, Sylvester posted a 74 on Wednesday and placed third overall with a 214. Hunter Vest was one shot back after a 75 put him at 215. He placed fourth.
Freshman Adam Wright stepped up to help the Flames answer the charge by Dallas Baptist. He turned in an even-par round of 72 on the Hombre Bad/Ugly Club course and tied his teammate Taylor Davis with a 226 over 54 holes. Davis had a round of 76 on Wednesday.
"I'm proud of Taylor Davis who plays so hard while he's out there," stated the coach. "He battled hard all week and that young man has come a long way. Our freshmen have made a major impact early, Shea (Sylvester) has had a great semester, maybe as good as I've seen from one of our freshman. And Adam (Wright) has given us a big push during the last two tournaments. Today he showed a lot of heart.
"This is something we will never forget. We are excited to be bringing two banners home to Lee University!"