By COURTLIN HAYGARTH | HSU Sports Network
HOT SPRINGS — It has been 735 days and counting since the No. 6 Henderson State women’s golf program was not atop the Great American Conference as the Reddies claimed their third consecutive GAC Championship crown with a 22-over 886 team score.
After winning last year’s title by 39 strokes, HSU added to that with a 50-stroke margin over second place Harding (72-over 936) this year, tying the largest margin of victory in GAC Tournament history.
GAC Freshman of the Year Lily Nelson came into the final round of the GAC Tournament with a 10-stroke lead on the individual leaderboard and extended that hold on first-place by seven strokes, setting a new GAC Tournament record for an individual margin of victory.
Nelson finished her inaugural GAC Championships with a first-place, 54-hole score of 6-under 210, becoming just the second Reddie to ever win the women’s individual GAC Championship. Her 6-under 210 also set a conference record for lowest individual score in the league’s postseason history.
Behind Nelson, three of the four remaining Reddies finished among the Top-5. Gracen Blount matched Nelson’s final round with an even-par 72 as she birdied her final hole from off the green to climb six spots on the individual leaderboard and finish alone at second with a 54-hole score of 11-over 227.
Daphney Tilton tied for third with a 12-over 228 while Allie Bianchi delivered her best round of the tournament on the last day with a 2-over 74, including an eagle on the Par 5, 474-yard 13th, to see her sixth Top-5 finish of the season with a 13-over 229.
Jinna Boonbumroongsuk finished in a tie for sixth with three other golfers, rounding out the Reddies with a 14-over 230. Boonbumroongsuk matched Nelson and Blount with three birdies to finish off her GAC Championships-debut.
Off their ninth tournament victory of the 2022-23 season, the No. 6 Henderson State Reddies and previously-ranked No. 1 team in the region will now await the final regional rankings as they are seeking their 10th consecutive trip to the NCAA Central Regional in Larchwood, Iowa, May 7-9.