Above photo courtesy of the American Southwest Conference
GLADEWATER, Texas- The weather was unbearable at times. The field was competitive. Winning a three-day tournament is not easy. But the UMHB women’s golf team overcame the odds, and claimed the program’s 13th ASC Tournament Title on Tuesday afternoon by four strokes. The victory punched the Crusaders’ ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
That NCAA Tournament will not require more than a short drive to the southeast, as head coach Jackie Ralston’s squad will put it all on the line at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, May 10-13. It marks UMHB’s first trip to NCAAs since 2019.
“I’m so proud of all the girls,” Ralston said. “Weather played havoc yesterday but they persevered.”
It certainly did. A scheduled 8:00 a.m. start was pushed back twice, with Monday’s round two eventually beginning around 1:30 p.m. The less-than-favorable course conditions and effects of the late start were visible, with UMHB’s 14-stroke lead dwindling to just four by the end of the day. But the Cru pushed on. UC-Santa Cruz, in second place, was unable to close the gap over the final 18 holes on Tuesday, as UMHB maintained its four-stroke lead, carding a 952 (+88) for the 54-hole tournament.
Sarah Kmiecik led the Cru to victory, claiming an individual win of her own, as she became the fourth-straight UMHB women’s golfer to take home individual medalist honors. A Houston native, Kmiecik led the entire way, shooting a -2 in Sunday’s opening round. A birdie on the first hole set the rhythm, and an incredible hole-in-one on the fourth hole furthered added to what ended up being a three-stroke lead after round one. Seven pars and two birdies on the back nine capped Kmiecik’s day one performance, and she added 14 pars through round two. On Tuesday, the senior shot a 73, winning the title by 10 strokes at 219 (+3).
“Sarah played fantastic to claim the individual title,” Ralston noted after the tournament. “Now we are headed to Houston for the national championship and we are ready for the opportunity.”
Avery Hill placed eighth for the Cru, while Sydney McConnell, last year’s ASC champion, recorded an 11th place finish. Lily Self and Lexie Manriquez were 17th and 18th, respectively.
On Wednesday morning, the ASC announced its All-Conference honorees. Ralston was voted Coach of the Year, having led UMHB to six tournament wins this season. McConnell and Kmiecik each achieved the high honor of being named First Team All-ASC. McConnell earned three individual wins in 2022, and Kmiecik, in addition to her performance at the conference tournament, posted four additional top-five finishes this season. Hill was selected as Co-Freshman of the Year and also named Second Team All-ASC, while Self and Manriquez earned Honorable Mention honors.
It marked the second all-conference selections for McConnell, Kmiecik and Self. For Hill and Manriquez, both freshmen, they received their first such All-ASC honors.