Eagles’ women, men post team victories; Lopes wins individual women’s title
PRESCOTT — Embry-Riddle’s women’s golf team won the ERAU Spring Invitational for the fourth straight season, while the Eagles’ men claimed victory for the third time in the tournament’s six-year history Tuesday afternoon at Antelope Hills’ South Course in Prescott.
In the six-team, two-day tourney, Eagles junior Nicole Lopes of Kaneohe, Hawaii, finished first in the women’s individual standings by firing an even-par 144. She led the whole way, shooting identical 72s in the first and second rounds, respectively.
“I hadn’t won [a tournament] at home yet, so it feels good,” said Lopes, who, along with her teammates, were awarded medals and a small wooden trophy of a biplane for winning the invite. “It was just a pretty solid [second] round overall. I didn’t try to do anything too fancy; just kept it simple.”
ERAU coach Kim Haddow said Lopes had sometimes been the “glue” holding the team together with her steady play this season, even though she hadn’t been posting individual wins. Lopes has responded thus far in 2018, however, as she’s won twice.
“She’s emerged as a confident young lady who’s playing very, very good golf,” Haddow added. “She putted very well [in the invite], and she’s strong off the tee.”
On a cloudy, cool afternoon Tuesday, Lopes was followed by three of her teammates in the Top 4, including Jessica Williams of Tucson in second place with a +3 (76-71 – 147), senior Trae Jones of Sparks, Nevada, in third with a +7 (74-77 – 151) and Elle Carlson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in fourth with a +12 (80-76 – 156).
“I knew I played well [Monday]; I didn’t really score well,” Williams said. “So, basically, I just wanted to come out and play the same. But I just had a couple more putts fall, which was nice to see. We’ve been focusing a lot on our short game, and making our misses small, especially with driver-approach shots, things like that.”
Jones said she struggled in the second round with two tough holes on the front nine, where she finished +5. On the back nine, though, she played even-par. Jones, who won this tournament in 2016, and Williams have been making adjustments to their swings lately.
“It’s my last home event, so third place is good,” Jones added. “And for my teammates to be the ones in front of me, it’s fine.”
Embry-Riddle had no trouble cruising to the victory, shooting a combined team score of +22 (302-296 – 598), which Williams said was “one of the best scores that we posted all year.” Runner-up Arizona Christian fired a +74 (328-322 – 650). Ottawa-Arizona, Benedictine-Mesa and Sierra Nevada College placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
“We’re in a pretty good position,” Jones said of her Eagles squad. “It’s honestly just confidence that we need to work on going into the other tournaments [two left in the regular season, followed by the Cal-Pac and NAIA National tourneys].”
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On the men’s side for ERAU, standout senior Matt Andrews from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, placed second to individual champion Preston Walker of Ottawa-Arizona. Andrews was tied for the lead with teammate Lewis Breslin after the first round on Monday.
“I just didn’t finish up that well,” said Andrews, who won the Spring Invite in 2016. “I played the front nine [Tuesday] at 5-under, and I turned and made a birdie on our 10th hole. And then I kind of slipped away and made a few bogeys and a double, ended up with a 1-under [Tuesday].”
Eagles men’s coach Mike Haddow said Andrews played solidly – he’s shot under par in his last three events – and was thrilled that four of his five golfers finished under-par in the home invite. Walker won by firing a minus-5 (70-69 – 139). For the Eagles, Andrews shot a minus-4 (69-71 – 140), Breslin registered a minus-2 (69-73 – 142) to finish tied with Arizona Christian’s Chris Senna for third, and Kyle Peterson snared fifth with a minus-1 (73-70 – 143).
“I felt good going into [Tuesday] – I felt like I could come out on top,” said Breslin, a sophomore from Renfrewshire, Scotland. “I got off to a slow start, and I made a few bogeys, but then came back with a few birdies.”
Embry-Riddle impressed in the team standings, racking up a final tally of minus-9 (284-283 – 567). Second-place Arizona Christian, ranked higher than 30th-ranked ERAU in the NAIA poll, shot a combined +8 (297-287 – 584). First-year NAIA member Ottawa-Arizona, Doane University, Benedictine-Mesa and Sierra Nevada followed in third through sixth places, respectively.
Despite a strong team finish, Andrews noticed room for improvement.
“We need to work more on our short game and putting,” Andrews said, “but seeing four out of our five guys shooting under-par [Tuesday] is kind of reassuring that we’re doing something right.”
Embry-Riddle’s men’s and women’s teams will travel to Primm, Nevada, for the challenging annual Battle at Primm. Grand View University plays host to the tournament at Primm Valley Golf Course Sunday, March 18, through Tuesday, March 20.
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.