Krista Weiszhaar tied for ninth place at the NCAA Central Region Championships, becoming just the third Southwest Minnesota State golfer in the program's history to qualify for the NCAA National Championships. She also helped lead the Mustangs to a fourth-place finish in the three-day, nine-team tournament played at Sierra del Rio Golf Club in Elephant Butte, N.M.
The Mustangs shot a 330 in Tuesday's final round and had a three-day total of 999, which was 19 strokes from finishing in third place and advancing to the national championships. The team's fourth-place finish was the program's highest since 2004.
Weiszhaar finished with a 26-over score of 242 and is the first SMSU golfer to qualify for the national championship since Erin Oakland in 2004. After tying for the low round of the day on Monday with a 5-over 77, the junior carded a 9-over round of 81 on Tuesday to finish as one of the three top individuals not on a top-three team. She advanced to the NCAA National Championships, which will be held May 16-19 at Persimmon Ridge Country Club in Louisville, Ky.
"It's really awesome," Weiszhaar said of qualifying for the national championship. "After all the hard work and all the time (head coach) Ross (Webskowski) puts in with us, this shows it was all worth it. I just can't wait to get to Louisville.
"I'm really proud of the team, too. We had a great run at making nationals and it makes me that much more excited for next year."
Augustana College won the team title with a 955. Colorado Mesa finished second (967) and Western New Mexico was third (980). Colorado-Mesa's Jennifer Hilts and Western New Mexico's Faylyn Beyale shared the individual region title, each posting a 16-over total of 232.
KC Kane, the Mustangs' lone senior, finished in 12th with a 30-over 246. She shot an 81 during Tuesday's final round, which was delayed for three-and-a-half hours due to lightning.
"KC played really well today on the front nine. Through eight holes, she was playing the KC Kane golf we know," Webskowski said. "She had a little trouble after that. I think the lightning delay hurt her a bit, but to her credit, she battled back and gave herself an opportunity (to qualify for nationals). That's a testament to the type of player and type of competitor she is."
SMSU sophomore Rachel Patnoe shot an 82 Tuesday and tied for 22nd at 37-over. Freshman Abby Gruber tied for 33rd at 48-over, while sophomore Marissa Campeau took 39th at 51-over.
Weiszhaar struggled on her front nine on Tuesday and was 7-over on her round after making the turn. On her final three holes of the front nine she finished with a double-bogey, a bogey and another double-bogey. She said the stretch shook her up a bit, but she responded with back-to-back pars and had a good approach shot on the 12th hole just before the lightning delay.
Once the delay finally ended, Weiszhaar drained a 10-foot birdie putt that she said gave her a boost of momentum going through the rest of the round. After her 7-over start to the round, she went 2-over over her final nine holes.
Webskowski said he was happy with how the team played over the three days, but he knew the Mustangs would need one day where everyone played great together. He said that day never materialized, but thinks his golfers gained a great experience over the course of the tournament.
"The team has been there the last four years and we talked about how we were going to do there this year. We really stuck to the game plan and that showed," Webskowski said. "We were never out of it.
"You're going to have bad days and bad holes, but it's such a long tournament that if you just hang in there, you'll give yourselves the opportunity to move on. We weren't able to have that one great round, but they battled, kept it very even-keeled and stuck to the game plan."
Team Results: 1. Augustana 955, 2. Colorado-Mesa 967, 3. Western New Mexico 980, 4. Southwest Minnesota State 999, 5. Winona State 1,008, 6. Minnesota State-Mankato 1,010, t7. Concordia-St. Paul, Colorado State-Pueblo 1,041, 9. Adams State College 1,058.
SMSU Individual Results
t9. Krista Weiszhaar 84-77-81 242 (+26); t12. KC Kane 84-81-81 246; Rachel Patnoe 82-89-82 253; t33. Abby Gruber 93-85-86 264; 39. Marissa Campeau 90-86-91 267.