NINETY-SIX, S.C. – Charleston Southern senior Shelby Thompson wrapped up a stellar collegiate career with a ninth-place finish at the Big South Championship on Wednesday at The Patriot at Grand Harbor. CSU placed sixth as a team.
The Bucs were in second place and in good position, just seven shots back, through round one but could not string birdies together to make a run at the top spot. Campbell captured its second consecutive Big South title in impressive fashion with a tournament-record tally of 15-under par. The Fighting Camels bested runner-up Gardner-Webb by 25 strokes. High Point and Presbyterian finished third and fourth, while Winthrop overtook CSU for fifth late in the day.
Presbyterian's Celia Mansour finished at -9 to claim the individual crown. Campbell's Nadine White fired a tournament-record 65 to surge to -6 and earn runner-up honors. Only three others in the 45-player field finished under par.
Thompson did not have a birdie in her final round but managed a 75 behind 16 pars. She held a share of the round one clubhouse lead thanks to a three-under 69, and followed with a 74 and 75 to finish at two-over 218 overall. Hayley McNeill posted a final round 74 to finish in a tie for 14th. Hannah Barger (T-25th) and Milleina Ohara (31st) contributed CSU's other counted scores with a 77 and 78. Bella Johnson-Schmitz (32nd) recorded a 79.
"Making birdies was the difference between us and some of the other schools," CSU head coach Matt Cram-Smith said afterward. "They had some putts go in and we seemed to not make, really, anything. Credit to the girls – they tried their guts out. They never quit out there and that's just how the game goes sometimes."
Thompson entered the day in fifth place, six back of the lead, and had opportunities to stay in red numbers and make a push. She missed out on several makeable birdie putts but again struck the ball well. Her only miscues of the day were a bogey at No. 2 and a double at the 17th.
"It feels pretty good (to finish top-ten) but I'm kind of disappointed," Thompson said. "I just couldn't make a birdie. I was proud, though, of how everyone fought through and kept playing. It was a good season and it was just hard to put it all together."
Cram-Smith reflected on Thompson's impact on the program during his tenure.
"Shelby was actually my first recruit ever that I signed as a coach," Cram-Smith said. "It's kind of been a learning curve for her and a learning curve for me being a new coach. Her career has been pretty darn good for CSU. She's had some really low scores, she's won an event, she's been runner-up in an event. She's never missed a tournament in her four years. It's just been a great few years. It's great to see her finish off with a nice tournament. If a few putts would have gone in, it could have been even better."
CSU recorded only five total birdies on Wednesday. McNeill notched her lone birdie of the day at the par-five 13th. Barger had back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th. Johnson-Schmitz birdied the ninth to go out in one-under 35 but triple bogeyed No. 10 and struggled on the back nine.
Despite not being at its best this week, CSU set a single-season scoring average record for the third straight year. Thompson and McNeill earned all-conference honors.
"It was a good season," Cram-Smith said. "We had some really good events and played well in some of the bigger events which is always nice to see how some of the bigger teams in the nation stack up against us. We had a good start to the spring out at Kiawah. We keep improving and that's what I'm proud of as a coach, that our scores keep getting better and better. We're very close to having some amazing scores. Still working toward it, obviously, but overall I'm very proud of the girls. We got the best out of them at times, for sure."