Pressel goes low, team takes Big 12 tournment


Texas Athletics

Texas players (from left to right) Madison Pressel, Katelyn Sepmoree, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Nicole Vandermade, and Haley Stephens celebrate after winning the Big 12 championship with a combined team score of 8-over par.

Stephanie Yarbrough

Madison Pressel won the first tournament of her collegiate career Sunday, finishing atop the individual leaderboard at the Big 12 Championship in Columbia, Mo., and propelling Texas to its first conference title since 2004.

It was also the team’s first tournament win of the season and the first under four-year head coach Martha Richards. Previously, the highest the Longhorns had finished was tied for second at the Dale McNamara Invitational back in October.

Pressel shot a 1-under in the final round but finished at 8-under for the weekend, thanks to three eagles and 10 birdies over three days.

“We worked really hard all season, and we came here to win,” Pressel said. “Everything has built up to this moment. I knew that if I could go out there and do what got me to this point, then I would be able to help our team in the long run. We weren’t leaving Columbia without fighting as hard as we could.”

The Longhorns took the lead Saturday and never looked back. Texas finished 8-over for the tournament, with Texas A&M in second at 11-over and Missouri in third at 16-over. As a team, Texas shot a subpar round on Saturday — propelled by Pressel’s tournament-record score of 6-under — and then finished Sunday’s final round 1-over.

“This is special, to win our first tournament here, and to endure a different golf course every day due to the elements is a real testament to the character of this team,” Richards said. “They dug deep, weren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and get a little bit muddy and dirty, and it paid off.”

On Sunday, junior Nicole Vandermade eagled on the 17th hole just minutes after Pressel accomplished the same feat on the 14th. It helped Vandermade finish the final round at 1-under, and she was 5-over for the tournament, good enough to tie for 12th overall. Freshman Rebecca Lee-Bentham also shot a 1-under Sunday to finish tied for 14th.

Josephine Janson of Oklahoma State and Katerina Ruzickova of A&M finished tied for second individually at 3-under.

“We’ve made a big effort since the fall to really be there for each other and to hold each other accountable in addition to being each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” Richards said. “When you have that kind of support, that’s when you have great teams.”

Later today, the NCAA will announce the seeding for the regional round of the national tournament. The sites include Daytona Beach, Fla., South Bend, Ind., and Auburn, Wash.