Eight Iowa Conference championships
PELLA — Central College senior Sarah Paulson (Ottumwa) is returning to the NCAA Division III women’s golf championships.
Paulson received one of six individual bids Monday afternoon, punching her ticket to the 72-hole tournament played May 8-11 at Zollner Golf Course in Angola, Ind.
Paulson made her debut on the national stage as a freshman in 2009 and garnered all-American status, finishing tied for sixth.
“Getting back to the championships was Sarah’s goal this year,” coach Tim Wilkinson said. “Now that she’s in she has nothing to lose and knowing what to expect will be a huge advantage. She can relax and play her game.”
The 2012 tournament caps an impressive career for Paulson, who is a three-time Iowa Conference MVP and 72-hole league tournament champion. She’s won eight tournaments and holds four school records. The 11-time league golfer of the week is averaging 80.8.
Paulson is among a 101-player field comprised of 19 teams and six individuals not from selected squads. League rival Wartburg College is one of 11 teams receiving an automatic berth as a conference champion. The other eight squads were chosen on an at-large basis.
“Sarah felt that compared to her freshman year the score averages are slightly lower,” Wilkinson said. “But she has played against most of the competition from the Midwest and had success. She won’t be intimated by the caliber of the golfers.”
The 18-hole Zollner Golf Course is a three-time national meet site and is the on-campus home course for Trine University (Ind.).
“It’s a straight, traditional course with tree-lined fairways,” Wilkinson said. “It’s not really hilly. It’ll be about keeping balls in the fairway and giving yourself a chance to hit the greens.”
Playing four rounds back-to-back will be a change-up from the traditional two-round tournaments Central competes in during the year. Participants will walk the course Sunday and play a practice round Monday before the tournament begins Tuesday.
“Even two days of competition can be exhausting,” Wilkinson said. “Sarah played two practice rounds going in as a freshman but they changed the format so this year she can pace herself. Sarah also gets a lot out of a practice round so she’ll be confident when the tourney starts.”
Wilkinson said Paulson’s mental game will help her excel.
“Her strength has always been her outlook and attitude,” he said. “She’s pretty relaxed and the fact that she’s accomplished so much already will help her be even calmer when playing.”
It’s the second time Central’s women have been represented in the national meet since it was established in 1996.
“Our goal is to get there as a team,” Wilkinson said. “Anytime we have someone experience success like Sarah has, it reaffirms that what we’re doing is good and working. Her stories about what it’s like and why it’s fun will help us make the next step as a program."
Defending champion Methodist University (N.C.) headlines the tournament field. The Monarchs have won 14 consecutive national titles.