By Paul Dodson, NAIA Media Coordinator
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- (Individual Results | Team Results) The SCAD Savannah (Ga.) Bees became the first team since 2013 to claim both the team and individual national titles, winning the team crown by 19 strokes while sophomore Maria Paula Otero won the medalist honor with an even-par at the 24th Annual NAIA Women’s Golf National Championship from PGA National (The Champions Course) (par 72, 5,875 yards).
The tournament, originally scheduled for 72 rounds, was shortened to 54 after inclement weather on the final day.
The Bees shot a 15-over (303) on Thursday to take a 19-stroke lead over runner-up William Woods (Mo.) in the final round. However, thunderstorms in the area caused Round Four to be canceled, resulting in SCAD Savannah being named National Champion.
The team title marks the first in program history for a squad that has sat atop the NAIA Top 25 all year. For her efforts, SCAD Savannah Head Coach Amanda Workman was named the NAIA Coach of the Year.
“I felt that if we could get 36 holes in with the way the weather was looking when we started the week, that would be pretty amazing,” Workman said. “We got in three rounds and had a pretty significant lead after the third round. Today was a challenge with the weather. It got to where it was just an unplayable course. But, I feel like we had three really solid rounds. We averaged our scoring average for the year. To win the (Sun Conference) conference tournament and then the national tournament was a pretty great way to end the year. For my two seniors (Paulina Camacho and Corinne Grans-Wood) this is icing on the cake for them. They are just great captains and really good girls. So, I’m happy for them.”
Trailing SCAD Savannah (300-306-303, 909) and William Woods (309-301-318, 928) on the team leaderboard were Keiser (Fla.) (315-321-300, 936), Dalton State (Ga.) (329-310-301, 940) and Taylor (Ind.) (311-315-315, 941).
Paula Otero, who was also named NAIA Player of the Year, ran away with the program’s second individual medalist honor, scoring even (75-73-68, 216) to take the top spot on the individual leaderboard. Her third-round score of 68 tied the championship record for low round while her three-day total of 216 set the championship mark for low score through 54 holes.
“She (Maria) is a fantastic player,” Workman said. “She actually didn’t have the best conference tournament. But, she has worked really hard throughout the year. She struggled in this tournament as a freshman last year. So, to see her come out and put all that behind her, learn from that experience, fight through the nervousness, and see her hard work pay off is really awesome. I’m glad I have her for two more years.”
“I’m absolutely happy,” Paula Otero said. “I’m really glad that our team won as well. We worked very hard to get here. I want to thank all of my teammates and my coaches. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible.”
After shooting a 75 during the opening round, the native of Cali, Columbia, shaved two strokes off her score for a one-over-par, and the individual lead after Wednesday.
“Every day I got more comfortable with my swing,” Paula Otero said. “I had more confidence and got more comfortable with the course. I knew where to place the ball. Just all of the hard work I put in this year paid off.”
Her record-setting score on Thursday not only set the table for her individual crown but it put the Bees well ahead of the rest field in the quest for the team title.
“Our goal from the beginning of the year was to win the National Championship,” Paula Otero said. “We prepared every day with this tournament on our minds. All of our practices, our working on our technique, our mental preparation, was all focused on winning this tournament.”
The individual runner-up was Paul Otero’s teammate Paulina Camacho, (74-77-75, 226), who shot a three-over 75 on Thursday. Sitting in third was Cumberlands (Ky.)’s Kaitlyn Riley (+11) (80-73-74, 227) followed by William Woods’ Katie Warren, William Carey (Miss.)’s Aleesha Smith, Dalton State’s Tia Teiniketo, and Keiser’s Kristine Kloda which were all tied for fourth at 13-over (229).
Along with the individual honors of the national tournament, the NAIA also recognized its all-tournament team, Champions of Character, and The Champion of Character Team Award.
For the second-straight year, Keiser and the Palm Beach County Sports Commission are serving as hosts for this year’s National Championship held at PGA National.
Maria Paula Otero, SCAD Savannah
Paulina Camacho, SCAD Savannah
Coach of the Year:
Amanda Workman, SCAD Savannah
Player of the Year:
Maria Paula Otero, SCAD Savannah
2018 NAIA Women's Golf National Championship All-Tournament:
Taylor French, Taylor (Ind.)
Megan Cullen, William Woods (Mo.)
Avril Li, British Columbia
Caitriona Griffin, University of Northwestern Ohio
Breanna Nowak, IU-East (Ind.)
Lucia Pena, Cumberlands (Ky.)
Samantha Fuller, Keiser (Fla.)
Courtney Lowery, Point (Ga.)
Michaela Fabiankova, Keiser (Fla.)
Kristine Kloda, Keiser (Fla.)
Tia Teinketo, Dalton State (Ga.)
Aleesha Smith, William Carey (Miss.)
Katie Warren, William Woods (Mo.)
Kaitlyn Riley, Cumberlands (Ky.)
Paulina Camacho, SCAD Savannah (Ga.)
Maria Paula Otero, SCAD Savannah (Ga.)