While the rest of college sports has suffered through a string of coaching changes and team failures, the women’s sports of golf has experienced true success. The Ole Miss women’s golf team is just one of many college teams to win a national championship in recent years—but it’s the first national championship in women’s sports, and it’s the first time for Ole Miss women.
The Rebels won their first national championship in women’s sports, and it came in one of the most popular and high-profile sports in the world: women’s golf. Ole Miss won the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, 2-up over Texas A&M in front of 16,000 fans at Austin Country Club.
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona. – Julia Johnson had a list of goals when she came to Ole Miss to play golf for a program that had yet to win an SEC title.
Fifth and final goal: to become national champions.
Part of me thought we could do it. Part of me thought: It’s a big dream, Johnson said Wednesday after the Rebels beat Oklahoma State 4-1 to win the NCAA women’s championship. I don’t think I’m out of it yet. We will cherish it forever.
This is the first national title for the Ole Miss women in any sport.
Kennedy Swann and Andrea Legnell led the Rebels with perfect weeks at Grayhawk Golf Club, winning all three matches.
Chiara Tamburlini set the tone for Ole Miss in the third of five matches. Leanna Bailey won by six strokes. Their 6-5 victory was the largest margin of victory in the final round since the NCAA switched to match play in 2015.
Right behind her was Johnson, who did not give up hope in a 4-3 win over Rita Tatematsu.
The key moment, however, came at the top of the lineup.
Swann faced Maya Stark, the top player of the Cowgirls and No. 7 in the world rankings for women’s amateurs. Swann was behind after three holes, tied and then won three holes in a row to take a three-point lead on the final nine.
Stark made a long bogey on the 11th hole. He shot and bogeyed the par-3 13th. Blow to get a hit. But she couldn’t catch Swann, and in the 17th minute. It was over in the first minute.
Stark hit a 272-yard drive on the par-4, and hit a pin-high just left of the green. Swann took a hit with an iron that didn’t quite hit the rough surface. It doesn’t matter. She hit a wedge from the perfect distance and the ball rolled into the tap-in area, missing a birdie.
Stark hit the ball 6 feet from the hole and missed a birdie, giving Swann a 2-1 win.
Lignell overcame an early deficit to score at 13. Hole to take advantage of Isabella Fierro, who had remained unbeaten all week. Lignell then forced Fierro into a two-yard putt on the next hole, which Fierro missed, costing him 2 points.
Lignell made it to 17th. Hole hit the winning shot from about two yards out, making it 2-1, and the party could begin.
Ole Miss got the win. Their players were waiting on the sidelines for the 17th game. Greens rush to Lignell and then stop to give him a chance to compete with Fierro. And then the tears began to flow.
We weren’t even close. We worked to get to this point, said Swann, who wore stickers on her face that read Flim Flam on one cheek and Bim Bam on the other. We finally proved that we belong. Ole Miss is a good team and we will be here for a long time.
Swann and Lignell won all three of their games against Texas in the quarterfinals, Arizona in the semifinals and the Cowgirls in the finals.
Oklahoma State was trying to win its first national title in women’s golf. The men’s program has 11 NCAA titles. Maddison Hinson-Tolchard contributed the only point for the Cowgirls with a 4 and 3 victory over Smilla Sonderby. By then it was too late.
Sonderby finished the job in the quarterfinals by winning by 21 holes in an anchor match in which Ole beat Miss Texas. When the event was over, she ran down the dirt path of the cart and rushed to celebrate with her team.