Ole Miss Wins School-Record Third Straight Tournament Title
Nov. 1, 2017
WAHIAWA, Hawaii – The Ole Miss women’s golf team continued its historic fall season, winning the 2017 Rainbow Wahine Invitational Wednesday, the Rebels’ third straight team tournament title.
The Rebels are on the longest tournament win streak in the program’s 32-year history and tied the school record for the most wins in a single season, a mark set in the 1992-93 campaign.
Title No. 3 came by a margin of just three strokes. Ole Miss and second-place Grand Canyon played identical third rounds at 288, but the Rebels used a few timely birdies late to earn the program’s ninth title in a 54-hole event at 287-286-288--861 (-3). Individually, all six Rebels finished in the top 15, including four in the Top 10.
“Everyone played great this week across the board, all six of our players,” said head coach Kory Henkes. “It’s hard to win a golf tournament Everyone has to be on all three rounds. No matter what the field’s like, it’s a tough thing to do. It was really cool to see our younger players step up, and it was really exciting to see us end our fall season like this.”
The Rebels entered the day with just a three-stroke lead on Grand Canyon, which shot the lowest tournament score in its history. It looked early on like the Rebels might run away with it. Conner Beth Ball, Julia Johnson, Diane Lim and Kie Purdom all knocked down birdies in the early going to give Ole Miss a seven-stroke cushion.
Henkes’ group carried its lead through much of the round but never could separate. Ole Miss totaled 16 birdies on the day, but Grand Canyon totaled 15, keeping the pressure on the Rebels throughout the match.
“Grand Canyon played great,” Henkes said. “They’re a great team. It was fun to play with them.”
Ole Miss powered through its most troublesome stretch on the course in Round 3. Holes 12-14 brought 13 bogeys or worse in the first two rounds, but the Rebels combined for just two in that span in the final round.
However, they weren’t home free. A few scattered bogeys late in the round cut the Ole Miss lead to just two strokes, but the Rebels found a way.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Henkes said. “It’s just one of those times where you have to put your trust in your players that they know how to get it done. That’s exactly what they did.”
One way or another, all five of the Rebels’ counting golfers came through.
After a tough front nine, Purdom played 1-under with three birdies on the back to finish the tournament at 3-over (219) and in a tie for 11th—both career-bests for the Lexington, Kentucky, native.
Lim birdied her second-to-last hole to finish the day at even par and preserve the Ole Miss lead. That birdie was No. 12 on the tournament, the most by a Rebel in Hawaii and a new career-high for the junior from Suwanee, Georgia.
Pi-Lillebi Hermansson overcame a tough start to the round for her first career Top 10 finish. The sophomore from Djursholm, Sweden, played her last nine holes 2-under par to finish the tournament at even par (216), setting new personal-bests in tournament score and finished tied for seventh.
Ball birdied two of her first four holes to push the Rebels out to an early lead, but she fell back to even par for the day with two bogeys on the back nine. However, the freshman from Madison, Mississippi, ended her fall season exactly how she started it: with a birdie. That last birdie gave Ball three top-10 finishes in her first five collegiate tournaments.
“I started the season with a birdie, and it felt so good to end the season with a birdie,” Ball said. “I'm so proud of this team and what we have started here this fall. It was a great freshman fall for both Julia and me, but I can't wait to watch us continue to grow into our games.”
After battling a sinus infection all week, Johnson was in contention for the win in Hawaii. She recorded back-to-back birdies on the fourth hole to move into sole possession of first place. The freshman from St. Gabriel, Louisiana, didn’t quite have the winning magic down the stretch at Leilehua Golf Course, but she still came away with her third consecutive top-five finish in a tie for third. But at 3-under, Johnson wasn’t even the Rebels’ top finisher.
Katy Harris, competing as an individual in Hawaii, grabbed that honor with a birdie on her final hole to finish in second place. She tied a personal best at 3-under (69) in the final round and at 4-under (212) for the tournament—both marks set during her 2016 Palmetto Intercollegiate championship run.
“It felt really good,” Harris said of her last round. “I played very consistent today and just never made any mistakes. I left a lot of shots out there on the first two rounds, which is disappointing, especially when I only lost by one, but all-in-all, it was a good three rounds.”
Harris played at even par or under all three rounds and went bogey-free in Round 3. The competitive senior from St. Simons Island, Georgia, couldn’t help but think of the strokes left on the course that could’ve could’ve pushed her past tournament winner Sydney Colwill (-5) of Memphis. All in all, she came away pleased with the way she closed her fall season.
“It feels really good to end the season with a second place (finish) since I haven’t been playing well this semester,” Harris said. “I’m glad my hard work is showing though, and I’m excited for the offseason to just work on my technique and get ready for what really counts—the spring.”
Ole Miss wrapped up the best fall season in program history and is well on its way to the best full season ever. Prior to this year, the Rebels had never won more than one 54-hole tournament in a season, and they’ve won three in the past month.
The spring will bring a challenging schedule filled with SEC competition, but Henkes and assistant coach Drew Belt are excited to see how three hard-fought wins will equip the young Rebels going into the spring.
“It’s a huge confidence builder for teams to get wins. It’s important to see yourself in the winner’s circle. That’s what we did these last three weeks,” Henkes said. “I’m really excited for the girls. I’m just so proud of every single person on our team. It’s been a joy to coach all of them. Coach Drew is a huge part of our success as well. We really work well together. Just to see the progress on a daily basis has been the best part, not only as golfers but as individuals as well. Seeing each player grow and get stronger, it’s been a real joy to coach this team. We’re really looking forward to getting better this offseason.”
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