MARICOPA, Ariz. – With the WAC Championships just over two weeks away, the New Mexico State women’s golf team seems to be picking up steam at exactly the right time. The Aggies will head into the conference tournament as champions of the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic after winning the tournament on Tuesday afternoon with a total score of 23-over-par 887 (297-296-294), nine shots ahead of second-place Santa Clara.
Freshman Camille Orito finished in a three-way tie for the first place after finishing with a 1-under-par 215 (71-70-74) for the tournament. Unfortunately for Orito, there is no sudden death playoff at the Cowgirl Classic. Instead, the tiebreaker is decided by a hole-by-hole scorecard playoff, starting backwards from the 18th hole of the final round. Orito finished the final round by bogeying the final hole, thus giving the individual crown to Annie Freeman of Santa Clara.
“The team played three solid rounds of golf, they tied the low team score every round of the tournament,” Aggie head coach Jackie Booth said. “Everyone did their part to produce the win. I am so proud of the commitment to our game plan and positive attitudes we have everyday.”
NM State shot a 6-over 294, its second-best round of the season, during the final round at the par-72, 6,231-yards AK-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club. The Aggies also carded a round under 300 during the first two rounds on Monday to lead wire-to-wire and finish with their best total score since shooting a school-record 2-over 866 during the Price’s “Give ‘Em Five” in October of 2010, which is also the last time NM State won a tournament. Tuesday’s round was the fifth-consecutive round under 300 for the Aggies dating back to the Mountain View Collegiate.
The win is the first outside of Las Cruces for NM State in over a decade. The last time the Aggies won a tournament that wasn’t their home tournament was the Sun Belt Conference Championships in Niceville, Fla., which was played in April of 2003.
This is also the first win for Booth during her second stint as the sole head coach of the Aggies. Booth took over the reigns of the program last season after co-coaching with legendary NM State coach Paul Brillliant for five years. Booth also had a win during her first time around as the Aggie head coach, winning the Big West Championships in 1997.
Orito shot her first round over par of the tournament on Tuesday, finishing with a 2-over 74. She had shot career-low rounds in rounds one and two, a 1-under and 2-under respectively. Orito began the final round with two birdies on the front nine. She made the turn at 5-under-par and seemingly in control with a few shots on the field.
After a bogey on the 14th, Orito was still at 4-under and in the lead, but a double-bogey on the 16th hole and the bogey on the 18th brought her back to the three-way tie for first and ultimately took away the first-place trophy.
Still, Orito had one of the greatest tournaments in recent history for the Aggies. Personally, she broke her career-best score for a round twice, had a career-best total score and, of course, her best finish in her short NM State career. Orito’s second-round score of 2-under tied the Aggies’ best score for a round this season. Her tie for first is the best finish for a NM State women’s golfer since former Aggie Demi Mak won the BYU at Entrada Classic in March of 2011 and, in only her sixth tournament for NM State, her 1-under 215 is the best tournament score for the Aggies since Mak finished with a 2-under 214 at the 2012 WAC Championships.
As good as Orito was during the three rounds, it was a team effort that pushed NM State to the front. And it was a young team effort, as the Aggies played with three freshmen and two sophomores during the Cowgirl Classic, something that bodes well for the program’s future.
Orito was only one of three Aggies to finish in the top 10 at the conclusion of the tournament as the Macias sisters also were at the top of the leaderboard. Fellow freshman Valeria Macias finished in fourth place, behind only the three tied for first including Orito, after posting her second-consecutive round of 2-over 74. She finished at 4-over-par 220 (72-74-74), her best total score of her young career.
Older sister and sophomore Viviana Macias continued her recent hot streak of golf. The older Macias finished in a tie for 10th with five other golfers with a total score of 9-over 225 (77-77-71). Viviana had the low round of the day for NM State, a 1-under 71, tying her career-low for a round. She will head into the WAC Championships with two-straight top-10 finishes and six-consecutive top-20 finishes.
Rounding out the Aggie golfers were sophomore Kacey Dalpes in a tie for 39th place with a total score of 16-over 232 (81-76-75), freshman Kristen Cline at 18-over 234 (77-76-81) and in a tie for 49th place and junior Laura Barron, who was participating as an individual, on 99th place with a 39-over 255 (90-85-80).
“The team played great and hung tight till the final putt dropped,” Aggie assistant coach Danny Bowen said. “Amazing team effort for such a young lineup. Probably the youngest team to ever win for Aggie women’s golf, three freshmen and two sophomores.”
NM State will now try to carry its momentum into the WAC Championships, which will be played in Mesa, Ariz., from Friday through Sunday, April 25-27.
“This is the perfect stepping stone going into our conference championship in two weeks,” Booth said.