Shipley, Hartigan lead GVSU to GLIAC championship

Alex Taylor (sophmore) drives the ball across the course during practice on Thursday morning, April 30th 2015. The womens golf team goes to regionals may 3rd in Chicago.

Alex Taylor (sophmore) drives the ball across the course during practice on Thursday morning, April 30th 2015. The women’s golf team goes to regionals may 3rd in Chicago.

Adam Knorr

The Grand Valley State women’s golf team never gained a comfortable lead at the 2015 GLIAC Women’s Championship in Xenia, Ohio.

It never trailed, either.

The No. 16 Lakers rode a three-day score of 912 (307, 302, 303) en route to a 19-stroke win over runners-up Findlay between Apr. 24-26.

Behind the 1-2 punch of Gabrielle Shipley and Kelly Hartigan, the Lakers kept Findlay at bay throughout the weekend.

“Our team doesn’t focus on numbers throughout the tournament,” Shipley said. “We knew that Findlay was chasing us but we knew what we are capable of and we went out there with the mindset that if we play like we know we are capable of, we would leave victorious.

“And that’s exactly what we did.”

After the first day, the Lakers held a slim five-stroke advantage atop the leaderboard, carding a team 307 to Findlay’s 312.

Shipley’s even par 72 topped the leaderboard, but Findlay’s Michele Schambs matched the junior standout shot-for-shot.

Hartigan’s 77 was good for second-best for the Lakers, while Samantha Moss and Julie Guckian both recorded scores of 79.

Wind and rain surged up to meet the GLIAC competitors on day two of the competition, but focus and determination prevailed.

Despite the worsening weather, all 11 teams carded lower scores than the previous day. The Lakers dropped from 307 to 302, while Findlay matched with a 302 of its own to remain five strokes back in the hunt for the title.

As the day raged on, Shipley and Schambs found themselves running neck-and-neck atop the leaderboard for a second straight round. Once again, the two signed cards of 72, remaining at even par overall through two days’ work.

“My mindset throughout the tournament was to keep playing my own game and to focus one shot at a time,” Shipley said. “I didn’t want to look at the scoreboard or think about how everyone else was doing. I only worried about myself and kept my focus on the shot in front of me.”

The Lakers were aided by a seven stroke improvement from freshman Alex Taylor in round two. The Ontario native battled her way to a 76 – a strong bounce-back from her day one score of 83.

The skies cleared up to set the stage for what was shaping up to be an exciting finish on the third day.

GVSU clung to a tight five-stroke lead over Findlay. Shipley and Schambs struggled to create separation from each other.

Only one competition came down to the wire.

The Lakers pulled away from the Oilers quickly in the third round. No Laker recorded a higher score than 8-over-par, while just two Findlay golfers managed to finish with a lower tally.

GVSU carded eight birdies to combat Findlay’s five, but in the end it was the Lakers’ depth that propelled them to an eighth consecutive GLIAC Championship.

All five scoring Lakers landed themselves among the top 20 finishers. Shipley and Hartigan led the charge from first and third place, while Taylor (18-over-par), Guckian (23-over-par) and Moss (26-over-par) came in at ninth, 14th and 19th, respectively.

For Hartigan and fellow senior Molly Esordi, the 2015 GLIAC Championship puts the sparkling bow on a perfectly wrapped gift. Both will leave GVSU having never failed to win a GLIAC title.

“(It’s) definitely pretty remarkable to win four straight GLIACs,” Hartigan said. “It’s always a fun tournament to play and winning GLIACs is always good motivation into regionals.”

GVSU knows a thing or two about regionals, having won five of the last seven titles, including last year’s.

The Lakers earned the top seed in the 2015 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Super Regional 1. GLIAC foes Ashland, Findlay and Northwood grabbed the third, fifth and ninth seeds, respectively.

The first round of the Super Regionals was Sunday, May 3 at Cog Hill Golf Course in Chicago. The tournament will conclude with the third round on Tuesday, May 5.