Mila Chaves wins Mountain West Championship


Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State

Senior Mila Chaves competes during the March Mayhem Tournament at the Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California on March 26.

by Abraham Jewett, Sports Editor

San Diego State women’s golfer Mila Chaves had a perilous one streak lead going into the final hole of the Mountain West Championship in Rancho Mirage, California on April 18.

The senior from Asencion, Paraguay was doing all she could to hold off UNLV sophomore Mackenzie Rain, who had battled back with a birdie on the seventeenth hole to set up a photo finish.

This was not unfamiliar territory for Chaves, who as a freshman three years ago stood on the same course with a share of first place in the conference championship final.

Chaves had played remarkably then, helping lead SDSU to its first ever team Mountain West championship while setting a course record with an opening round score of 66. 

The individual crown would elude her, however, after Chaves was forced to accept second place, losing on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff against New Mexico’s Manon Molle.

Chaves finished third at the event the next year, before a back injury during her junior year kept her watching from the sidelines as then-freshman teammate and fellow Paraguayan Fernanda Escauriza won the conference crown.

This year, finally, Chaves would not be denied.

Both Chaves and Rain shot par on the final hole, vaulting Chaves to not only the Mountain West championship, but to her first ever collegiate win.

“It’s my last year, obviously I wanted to finish well in the team and obviously also in the individual,” Chaves said. “But yeah, I mean it doesn’t get better than winning conference.”

The penultimate hole nearly tripped Chaves up, after her tee shot on the par-3 hole landed approximately 70 feet from the pin, while Rain — who was two strokes back — landed her tee shot near inches from the hole.

Rain tapped in for birdie, and while facing a putt which could undo her championship hopes, Chaves was able to get within about a foot of the hole before tapping in for par.

Chaves explained that while she was aware of how close the score was, she chose to remain focused on her own game down the stretch and going into the final hole.

“I knew how the match was standing, and I was just trying to play my game and keep focused, because I can’t really control what (Rain) does,” Chaves said.

Head coach Leslie Spalding walked the final nine holes with her senior, and said that winning on this course, in this event, was perfect.

“(Mila) just really loves playing there, and so I think it’s a perfect victory for her to take home,” Spalding said. “To make it at the end of your career, and to get the win and to come home with it being a conference champion is pretty dang cool. A long time coming.”

As a team, the Aztecs finished in second place behind UNLV for a third straight year, ending with a +16, compared to a +8 for the Runnin’ Rebels.

Spalding said that while she is happy with her teams performance — their season best finish up to that point was fourth — the goal never is to finish in second place.

“I think we intend to win it and finishing second isn’t exactly what we want to do,” Spalding said. “I think our team has been good enough to win it every year, and so second to me is not necessarily success, but it’s not failure either.”

While UNLV was flanked by a small but hearty contingent of fans, Spalding said that the Aztecs had no such base, which fans the flames even more of an already heated rivalry.

“(There is) definitely a rivalry. They tend to have about 20 people following and we have like nobody following really, so they’re kind of loud and we quietly go about our business,” Spalding said. “So yah, it’s a little frustrating not to take home a championship with players I think are very capable of doing so.”

Next up for SDSU is a trip to the NCAA regionals, with the team finding out where it will compete on April 25. The possibilities range from staying in California, to heading to Texas, Florida or Wisconsin.

No matter where the Aztecs end up playing, Spalding said her team will be ready.

“I’m confident in my teams ability to play anywhere we get,” she said, “so wherever it is, bring it on.”