Auburn’s women might as well have been toeing the line for wind sprints the way they raced from the 16th hole at Greystone Golf Club in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday to the 18th hole. The squad of navy-and-orange-clad players were split between two key holes in the final minutes of the SEC Championship, and as soon as Mychael O’Berry’s victory over Mississippi State’s Blair Stockett was official, it was time to meet up and celebrate.
Auburn had won the SEC title, something the Tigers hadn’t done since 2012. This is the their 10th league title in the 40-year history of SEC women’s golf.
Auburn arguably won the day on the greens, getting off to a bit of a slow start against Mississippi State but slowly flipping each match to the point that the official score was 5-0-0.
Scores: SEC Championship final
Anything can happen in match play, as the final match indicated. LSU and South Carolina, ranked Nos. 6 and 1, respectively, in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, distanced themselves over three rounds of stroke play, but South Carolina immediately fell to Alabama, ranked No. 28 in the first round of match play.
Mississippi State, ranked No. 43 by Golfweek, authored a heroic win over LSU, 3-1-1, in the semifinals.
As for Auburn, ranked No. 12, the Tigers played three rounds of stroke play in 25 under, finishing 21 shots behind stroke-play medalist LSU but taking the No. 3 seed into match play. The team knocked off Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals, 3-1-1, after getting lopsided wins out of Megan Schofill (5 and 4) in the lead-off spot and O’Berry (7 and 6) in the fourth spot.
In the semifinals, the Tigers took down Alabama, 3-1-1.
Kaleigh Telfer, a South African who recently finished T22 at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, put Auburn’s first point on the board in the championship match despite trailing Abby Daniel for much of the back nine. Telfer won Nos. 16 and 18 to secure the first point.
Schofill followed, taking a point against Ashley Gilliam, one of Mississippi State’s marquee players, on the 18th hole.
Amid the celebrations, head coach Melissa Luellen referenced maturity in ending a long week with the conference title.
“Just emotional management because they’re a very mature group, very experienced, they love match play. They eat it up,” she told the SEC Network. “They just know when they’re down it’s OK and if they’re up, just keep pressing.”
Longtime Florida men’s golf coach Buddy Alexander has a rooting interesting in Auburn women’s golf, considering his wife Joan is the team’s director of operations. He texted Luellen a message for her players on Saturday night: Stay positive.
“Championship rings aren’t easy to come by, I have many,” Luellen said in repeating Alexander’s words. “The formula is to be positive, breathe, and stay in the moment.”
Auburn did it until the end.