Women’s golf takes home Mountain West Championship


Courtesy of Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos

by Kyle Betz, Senior Staff Writer

San Diego State women’s golf captured its second Mountain West Championship on April 17 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The victory ended the Aztecs’ streak of three consecutive second-place finishes at the Mountain West Championship.

Following the first day of the championship, SDSU sat in second place, shooting 15-over-par 303.

After the second day of the competition, the Scarlet and Black led the field over eight other Mountain West teams at 22-over 598.

Entering the final round, SDSU led by nine and ten strokes over San Jose State and Nevada, respectively.

Although Nevada shot 9-over 297, the Aztecs shot 18-over-par 306 — just enough to win the championship by one stroke over the Wolf Pack at 40-over 904.

Individually, sophomore Sara Kjellker finished tied for second overall, shooting 3-over 219. She sunk two bogeys and a double bogey but recovered by draining four birdies.

Kjellker finished the competition stroking three pars in the last three holes and said the championship win has a profound meaning for the Aztecs.

“We’ve been working really hard the past year and to see that paying off together is so much fun,” Kjellker said. “It feels like a milestone for us.”

Kjellker ended the championship tied with San José State freshman Natasha Andrea Oon and two shots behind Fresno State sophomore Brigitte Thibault.

Besides Kjellker, the championship squad included junior Fernanda Escauriza, sophomore Gioia Carpinelli, senior Kitty Tam and senior Daniela Anastasi.

Escauriza, who was SDSU’s individual women’s golf champion at the Mountain West Championship in 2017, finished fourth overall. She shot 5-over 221, including two birdies on holes 11 and 13.

Like Kjellker, Escauriza drained two pars in the last two holes.

Carpinelli collected a host of bogeys and a double bogey on the 13th hole. The Switzerland native tied for 15th, however, shooting 16-over 232.

Carpinelli was named First Team All-Mountain West, while Kjellker and Escauriza were given Second Team All-Mountain West honors on April 23.

Tam recovered from a double bogey and bogey on holes 12 and 13 to shoot five-straight pars – finishing at 22nd place at 19-over 235.

Anastasi tied for 34th to round out the side, collecting four bogeys and a double bogey.

Kjellker said the team is continuing to improve as the season resumes.

“We work hard together every day. We do our drills together and we see each other getting better every day,” Kjellker said. “For us, it’s just a confidence boost going into regionals.”

Head coach Leslie Spalding has led SDSU to its seventh NCAA Regionals appearance in the last eight years.

For Kjeller, Spalding has had an enormous influence on the program and attributed her guidance to its success.

“Coach Spalding (has had) the biggest impact on our team because she is very supportive no matter how you play,” Kjellker said.

SDSU’s conference championship win guaranteed a bid into the NCAA Regionals, which will take place from May 6 to 8.

The bid announcements will be nationally televised on the Golf Channel on April 24.

The regional competitions will be hosted by Michigan State, Oklahoma, Washington and Auburn on sites near all four campuses.

Kjellker said she prefers to play in Washington for the NCAA Regionals.

“My hope is that we will stay on the West Coast,” Kjellker said. “It’s kind of a similar area that we are used to – the same grass, wind, etc. No matter where we go, regionals is still going to be a really cool experience, but I think that would benefit us.”

The Aztecs were one shot away from reaching the NCAA Championship last season after tying for seventh at the NCAA Regionals in San Francisco last year.

Kjellker said she likes the Aztecs’ odds of making the NCAA Championship this time around.

“Regionals is probably the most exciting tournament of the year,” Kjellker said. “I think we have a really good chance this year, especially now coming in with a (conference championship) win. It’s going to be so much fun playing against the best schools.”

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