Johnson, Ole Miss earn spot in NCAA Championships
NORMAN, Okla. – Ole Miss Women’s Golf and Pine Prairie native Julia Johnson are headed to the NCAA Division I Championship for the second time in as many years, and for the second time in program history, after locking up a top-six finish in the Norman Regional Wednesday at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
Ole Miss entered the day in a tie for sixth, but a long delay in the morning didn’t faze the Rebels. They put together a 2-over 290, the fifth-lowest team score in the final round, in tough conditions to grab the sixth-place finish and secure their spot in the national championship.
The Rebels were solid from top to bottom with the entire squad finishing in the top-51 individually. All five players finished their individual rounds 3-over-or-better to edge out Texas Tech for the final qualifying spot on the last day.
Ole Miss was fourth in the field in total pars with 185 and second in par-5 scoring throughout the week, going 6-under as a team.
“We played great all week long, especially today,” head coach Kory Henkes said. “After the storms last night, it was wet and windy conditions again today. For them to come out and fire some great individual scores is impressive and shows the level of heart and care that they have for our program.”
“A big part of our program is having that four and five score every time. It really helps to have everyone capable of shooting under-par. The biggest thing that has driven us to success this season is having different people stepping up for us every day.”
Kennedy Swann, no stranger to the postseason, led the Rebels on the individual leaderboard by tying for 27th individually. The junior transfer from Clemson opened with a 1-under 71 to lead the Rebels on Day 1 and consistent play in the final two rounds earned her a top-30 finish individually (71-73-74—218). Swann led the team in birdies with 11, including one on her final hole Wednesday on the par-4 3rd hole.
Johnson, who was recently named second team All-Southeastern Conferfernce, saved her best round for last, shooting an even-par 72 that included going bogey-free over her last 14 holes with a pair of birdies. The sophomore used a big up-and-down on her final hole to keep the Rebels firmly inside the cut line to advance.
Classmate Conner Beth Ball matched Johnson with a near flawless even-par 72 to cap off her week. The sophomore had 16 pars, one birdie and only one miscue on arguably the toughest day condition-wise to play in. She finished tied for 31st and led the field in total pars with 43 through 54 holes.
Rookie Ellen Hutchinson-Kay put together a top-36 finish in her postseason debut, opening up with an under-par round and finishing with a 3-over 75 Wednesday. Hutchinson-Kay was one of four Rebels to play the par 5s under par, going 2-under for the week.
Continuing her remarkable play the last few weeks, Macy Somoskey turned in a huge contributing score on the final day, shooting an ever-par 72 going bogey-free on her final 10 holes. The freshman finished tied for 51st individually, moving up 12 spots in the final day. Throughout the tournament, she was second on the team in total pars with 39.
“This tournament was the best we’ve done all season by just grinding it out at the end,” Henkes said. “We struggled early in the season with finishing strong and we’ve really worked on that and it’s coming together seeing everyone finish under-par for the last few holes out there.”
“We’re really excited about getting back to a National Championship. It’ll be a little different experience this year because we’ve been there before so now we know what to expect to be able to compete for a National Championship.”
The NCAA Division I Women’s National Championship will take place May 17-22 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Rebels (No. 34) have the fourth-lowest ranking in the Golfstat national rankings to make the national championship behind Tennessee (No. 42), UCF (49) and Indiana (NR). Ole Miss will join No. 13 Auburn, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 10 Florida, No. 42 Tennessee and No. 6 Vanderbilt as members of the Southeastern Conference to tee up in Fayetteville.