KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Charleston Southern recorded the lowest round in school history, an even-par 288, to cement an outstanding fifth-place finish at the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Spring Classic on Tuesday. Junior Hayley McNeill set the program's individual 54-hole scoring record with a four-under total of 212 to claim fifth-place in the field of 232 players.
McNeill (70 (-2)), Shelby Thompson (71 (-1)) and Emelie Flink (72 (E)) all posted third round totals of par or better to pace Matt Cram-Smith's club and surpass the program record of two-over par 290, set in the 1999-2000 season. With her second under par round in as many days, McNeill eclipsed the record set by Patricia Martinson in that same season. Flink's three day total of even par 216 allowed her to finish T-11th.
"They were really excited and I was excited," CSU head coach Matt Cram-Smith said. "It was one of those days where it seemed like everybody was playing pretty well. It was kind of what we were expecting. I was really proud of Hannah (Barger) toughing it out. She didn't hit it great today but for her to come in at 75 really helped us. Otherwise, we wouldn't have shot the school record. It was definitely a team effort."
Coastal Carolina held off host College of Charleston by a stroke to win the team title at six-over 870. Southern Miss (873 (+9)), East Tennessee State (878 (+14)) and CSU all challenged the Chanticleers for the top spot through the final nine holes at Osprey Point Golf Club.
College of Charleston's Laura Fuenfstueck notched her third straight under par round to surge to eight-under 208 and clinch a wire-to-wire victory. ETSU's Hee Ying Loy tallied her second consecutive three-under 69 to finish two shots back in second. Coastal's Malene Krolboll Hansen and Southern Miss's Nichada Satasuk finished one shot ahead of McNeill in a tie for third.
McNeill headed into the spring's opening event as the first player in Cram-Smith's tenure to finish qualifying rounds under par. The Australian continued her stellar play with three impressive rounds, challenging for the individual crown in a deep field. She tallied a 35 on both nine's Tuesday, fittingly closing her round with a birdie at the par-five 18th.
"She was very, very steady," Cram-Smith said. "From tee to green, she was just flushing it. It was really impressive. She's been working really, really hard in the weight room getting her core stronger and getting more consistent with her swing. Her tempo and timing was great this week and that's what led to the consistency. It was good to see her start making some putts because that's the part of the game that's held her scoring back a little bit."
Flink teamed with McNeill to give the Bucs two players near the top of the field. She rolled home five birdies in her final round, and recovered from three straight bogeys on the back nine to par two holes and birdie the last.
"Emelie's really straightened some things out from tee to green," Cram-Smith said. "She's keeping it in play and she's making the game a lot easier too. She's not having to rely on her short game so much to score. She's hitting a lot more greens and hitting the ball a lot closer."
Thompson exhibited moxie with a final round 71 after shooting 80 and 77 on the first two days of competition. The senior, who earned three top-ten's and two top-five's in the fall, was superb after bogeying the first hole. Thompson rattled off 14 pars and birdies at the par-three third, par-four 10th and par-three 11th over the remainder of her day. The strong finish allowed her to tie for 66th.
Hannah Barger recorded a solid three-over 75 to finish tied for 53rd at ten-over 226. Barger was one-over on her back nine, with a birdie at the par-four 13th. Milleina Ohara, playing as an individual, was among the tie for the 66th with Thompson. She turned in a one-under 71 on Tuesday with a steady round of 15 pars and two birdies.
"They realize now they do have talent and they can compete with these schools," Cram-Smith said. "It's a great stepping stone for the rest of the spring."
CSU returns to action next Monday and Tuesday, March 6-7, at the University of North Florida Collegiate.