JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. – Charleston Southern junior Hayley McNeill continued her stellar spring with a T-22nd place finish Tuesday at the Briar's Creek Invitational. McNeill fired a final round 74 to pace CSU to a 14th place showing in a field featuring ten top-50 programs.
CSU was ahead of two of those clubs and in contention for a top-ten result after a solid first 36 holes but struggled at times on Tuesday, recording a 19-over par 307. Senior Shelby Thompson (T-35th) matched McNeill with a two-over 74 but the Bucs' other counted scores were 78 and 81. The Bucs did finish in front of rival and tournament host, College of Charleston, as well as Penn State, Long Beach State and Kansas.
Florida won its third consecutive Briar's Creek Invitational with a tournament record 15-under 849. The Gators' Maria Torres posted a final day three-under 69 to finish at -7, jumping two spots to earn individual medalist honors. College of Charleston's Laura Fuenfstueck finished runner-up at four-under 212.
CSU head coach Matt Cram-Smith viewed the 54 holes as another valuable experience against elite competition. The Bucs have two more events, including one this weekend, before vying for the Big South Conference title.
"It was a bit of a tough day from the start," Cram-Smith said of Tuesday's final round. "It was difficult to get any momentum going in the right direction but we had some good back nines to save our scores a little. Hayley and Shelby were really solid for us again and if a few more putts would have dropped, they both could have been under par."
"It was good to play in a strong field and see how we stack up," Cram-Smith continued. "Our girls definitely showed they can mix it up with some really good teams."
McNeill's latest performance followed back-to-back top-ten finishes at the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Spring Classic and the UNF Collegiate. She showed excellent composure to bounce back from a four-over back nine with a two-under front side. Following a double bogey 7 at the 18th, McNeill dropped in birdies at the par-four 1st and 3rd. She capped her day with another at the par-four 9th to finish in style.
Thompson also birdied her closing hole, the par-five 10th. The Bucs' number one player during the fall was even on the back nine. Classmate Bella Johnson (T-70th), making her spring debut, recorded a 78 for CSU's third counted score. She highlighted her effort with birdies at No. 14 and No. 18 as part of a two-over back nine.
Milleina Ohara sat at two-over after an excellent first day but finished with a nine-over 81 on Tuesday. She did show poise to turn in a level par front nine that included birdies at the par-three 2nd and par-five 5th. Emelie Flink notched an 86 in her final round.
CSU will play its fourth event of the spring this weekend at the Babs Steffens Invitational, hosted by Stetson University in Deland, Fla. Round one at Victoria Hills Golf Club is slated to start Saturday morning, with the second and third rounds following Sunday and Monday.