Findlay earns return trip to nationals as Region XI champion

Bianca Findlay qualified for nationals by winning the Region XI championship.

ANKENY - Southwestern sophomore Bianca Findlay punched her ticket to the 2019 NJCAA Women's Golf National Championships by winning the Region XI Championships at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny. Findlay also qualified for nationals as a freshman.

The sophomore from Australia entered the second weekend of the tournament tied for first with Iowa Western's Lisa Lied. Findlay shot four strokes better over Friday and a weather-shortened Saturday round to pull away for the individual championship. Findlay finished with a four-day score of 275, with Lied second at 279. Findlay finished 22 strokes ahead of fifth place.

"The first weekend, we talked about putting yourself in a good spot," Southwestern Head Golf Coach Doug North said. "Week 2, we knew she was in a good position, she just needed to maintain consistency. Anybody in the top 10 at that time had a good chance at winning it. We picked safe lines all weekend, off the tee box especially. Otter Creek is a course where errant tee shots will get you, but after your tee shot, the course is friendly."

North said there was a point on Friday when Findlay birdied back-to-back holes at 10 and 11 and North had a good feeling then that she was in control.

Because of near-freezing temperatures and rain on Saturday, the conference shortened Saturday's round from 18 holes to nine holes.

Freshman Ashton Carter of Creston rebounded from a sluggish start during Week 1 to force a playoff Saturday for the final qualifying spot to nationals.

"Week 1, her game was not where it needed to be," North said. "She put herself on the outside looking in by a pretty good margin. Week 2, Friday, she played well, put herself back in the hunt."

Entering Saturday's shortened round, Carter was five strokes back of the cut line for qualifying. Carter shot a 46 in the cold, rainy conditions to force the playoff. After both competitors recorded double bogeys on the first playoff hole, NIACC's Jordyn Barragy sank a 20-foot putt from off the green, forcing Carter to have to make her 12-footer to extend the playoff.

"Ashton had to make her 10-12 footer downhill slider, which she just left on the high side to lose the playoff," North said.

Sarah Rauschenberg finished 25th, Katelyn Belding 26th and Megan Fairchild 27th for the Spartans.

Findlay now continues her season May 13-16 in the national championships at LPGA International Course in Daytona Beach, Florida. She will play 18 holes each day.

"Last year she finished top 40," North said. "She's capable of significantly improving on that. She really only had one good round last year, where this year we can hopefully limit the mistakes and put ourselves in position to make some noise."