Eight Iowa Conference championships
ANGOLA, IND.---Displaying the poise that made her the best player in Central College women's golf history, senior Sarah Paulson of Ottumwa used a back-nine eagle to propel her to a sizzling 73 and a tie for second place at the NCAA Division III Championships Friday.
It's the highest finish ever by a Dutch women's golfer, bettering the sixth-place tie she turned in as a freshman in 2009. Paulson finished at 77-77-76-73--303, part of a three-way tie and just a shot away from a national title. Catherine Wagner of Wis.-Eau Claire held off Paulson for first place, shooting 78-71-76-77--302.
Paulson, who started on the back nine on the par-72 Zollner Golf Course, opened Friday with an even-par 36, carding two bogeys and two birdies. She then bogeyed the first three holes on the front before reaching the 462-yard, par-5 No. 5 hole in two shots, and rolling in an eagle putt. She parred the final three holes to finish a stroke back.
A three-time Iowa Conference player of the year, Paulson had missed a year while recovering from a knee injury and spending a semester of study abroad in Spain. She had a steady but not spectacular spring season and wasn’t sure of even being selected for the NCAA field.
“I didn’t have a crystal ball but I had a good feeling that if Sarah got in, she’d play well,” coach Tim Wilkinson said.
“I hadn’t played as well as I’d liked,” Paulson said. “But once I was in, then the pressure was off and I said to myself, ‘OK, let’s do this.’
“I felt really good. It was so much fun.”
Paulson said that she played relaxed most of the day.
“I was a little nervous this morning, but that can be a good thing,” she said. “But once I started playing, I was fine. I just really wanted to go out and shoot a really good score in my last round as a senior.”
But the 73 was hard work.
“Even though it was my best round, I had to scramble quite a bit,” she said. “I wasn’t feeling that confident over my shots.”
She felt better after No. 5, a hole she had bogeyed the previous day.
“When I got the eagle I was pretty excited,” she said.
But Paulson didn’t know that it had pulled her to within a shot of the lead.
“I had no idea,” she said. “I wish I’d known, I maybe would have given my last putt more of a run. I made a good putt and it was on line. But there were so many other shots I could have made, too.”
Wilkinson said the tourney was a fitting close to Paulson’s career.
“It was great to see her play so well,” he said.