Women’s Golf Tees Off For 2023-24 Season
Northwest Nazarene was the top GNAC finisher at the SMU Fall Invitational to open its 2023-24 campaign.
Northwest Nazarene was the top GNAC finisher at the SMU Fall Invitational to open its 2023-24 campaign.

Thursday, September 21, 2023
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – The first tournaments of the 2023-24 GNAC women’s golf season saw some of last year’s best players pick up right where they left off at tournaments in DuPont, Wash., and Rapid City, S.D.

All five programs hit the links on Monday and Tuesday with Northwest Nazarene, Saint Martin’s, Simon Fraser and Western Washington all taking part in the SMU Fall Invitational at The Home Course. The Nighthawks led the way for the conference in DuPont, taking second place at the tournament with a two-round score of 598. Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets represented the conference at the Hardrocker Fall Invitational with a fourth-place finish and a two-day score of 666.

With the first two tournaments in the books, programs around the conference will take the chance to reset before October. Montana State Billings will be in action next at the Beartooth Invitational in Laurel, Mont. on Oct. 2-3. The Yellowjackets will then join Saint Martin’s, Simon Fraser and Western Washington in Bellingham on Oct. 9-10 for the WWU Invitational.

This Week's Storylines

Coming off a debut season where she was named the 2022-23 GNAC Freshman of the Year, Meera Minhas has put the conference on alert once again to start the new season. Minhas looked like she hasn’t missed a stroke since last year and opened the 2023-24 campaign by tying for third at the SMU Fall Invitational with a two-round score of 3-over-par 147. Minhas notched four birdies in the process and finished just three strokes behind tournament-winner Makensie Toole from George Fox.

Minhas’ performance led the Red Leafs to a fourth-place finish, the second highest of any GNAC team in the field, with a two-day score of 607. Sophomore Izzy Ferguson followed Minhas, finishing in a three-way tie for 19th with a two-round score of 8-over-par 152. Fellow sophomore Anaya Bhandal finished in a four-way tie for 22nd two strokes behind Minhas along with senior teammate Natasha Kozlowski to round out scoring for the Red Leafs.

NIGHTHAWKS ON THE UP: After a third-place finish at last year’s GNAC Championships, Northwest Nazarene came out as the top team among conference competitors at the SMU Fall Invitational with a two-round score of 598, just one stroke behind team champion George Fox. The Nighthawks also tied for the second-best team round in the tournament on Tuesday, finishing the day with a score of 8-over-par 296.

Senior Madison Gridley led the way for NNU, tying for fifth in the 60-player field with a two-round score of 4-over-par 148. Gridley’s round-two score of 1-under-par 71 was tied for the best round of the tournament along with junior teammate Paige Vancil, individual champion Makensie Toole, and a pair of UBC Okanagan golfers. Vancil finished in a five-way tie for 14th with a two-day score of 7-over-par 151 after moving up 21 places in the standings on Tuesday. Junior Christine Cho and sophomore Elle McCord rounded out the scoring effort for NNU in 19th and 27th, respectively.

YOUNG VIKINGS SET SAIL: Four of the five Western Washington golfers to play in the SMU Fall invitational were underclassmen, including the top finisher for the Vikings in sophomore Lauren Lee. With a two-round score of 5-over-par 149, Lee led headed up WWU’s sixth-place team finish in a tie for seventh place. As a team, Western Washington finished with a two-day score of 619, just two strokes behind fifth-place Dominican (Calif.) and one stroke ahead of seventh-place Hawaii Hilo.

Behind Lee, sophomores Emma Worgum and Kasey Maralack notched 14th and 22nd place finishes while senior Dani Bailey and freshman Claire Voelk finished in a tie for 47th. Worgum finished with a two-round score of 7-over-par 151 while Maralack carded a score of 10-over-par 54. Bailey and Voelk both carded scores of 167.

BEST OF 2022 LEAD SAINTS START: After finishing first and second at the GNAC championships last year, sophomores Ashley Bruland and Kelsie Inouye started their 2023 campaign as part of a tie for 14th at the SMU Fall Invitational. Both Bruland and Inouye finished the tournament with two-round scores of 7-over-par 151. It was Inouye who opened the tournament with a team-best score of even-par 72 on Monday. Sophomore Sabrina Poole and junior Hannah White rounded out scoring for the Saints in a tie for 49th and 52nd, respectively.

MAKING THE CUT IN MOUNTAIN TIME: Montana State Billings was the lone GNAC team to compete at the Hardrocker Fall Invite at the Red Rock Golf Course in Rapid City, S.D., and took home a second-place finish after carding a two-round score of 666. The Yellowjackets were led by freshman Orraya Tipasathien who carded a two-day score of 161 to tie for fourth place. Tipasathien opened her first collegiate tournament with a score of 7-over-par 79 for her best round of the week.

Junior Gia Vargas followed Tipasathien in a tie for seventh with a two-round score of 163 after carding the best round of any MSUB golfer in the tournament with a 6-over-par 78 on Monday. Sophomore sisters Hannah and Haylee Adams finished in 13th and 14th, respectively, with just one stroke between them to round out the scoring four.

Last Week's/Previous Tournament Results

SMU Fall Invitational (Sept. 18-19, at The Home Course, DuPont, Wash.) Team – 
1, George Fox, 597. 2, Northwest Nazarene, 598. 4, Simon Fraser, 607. 6, Western Washington, 619. 11, Saint Martin’s, 639. Individuals – 1. Makensie Toole, George Fox, 144. T-3, Meera Minhas, Simon Fraser, 147. T-5, Madison Gridley, Northwest Nazarene, 148. T-7, Lauren Lee, Western Washington, 149. T-14, Paige Vancil, Northwest Nazarene, 151. T-14, Emma Worgum, Western Washington, 151. T-14, Ashley Bruland, Saint Martin’s, 151. T-14, Kelsie Inouye, Saint Martin’s, 151. T-19, Izzy Ferguson, Simon Fraser, 152. T-19, Christine Cho, Northwest Nazarene, 152.

Hardrocker Fall Invite (Sept. 18-19, at The Golf Club at Red Rock, Rapid City, S.D.) Team – 1, Westminster, 646. 2, Montana State Billings, 666. Individuals – T-1, Annika Schooler, South Dakota Mines, 154. T-1, Kinsey Smith, Chadron State, 154. T-4, Orraya Tipasathien, Montana State Billings, 161. T-7, Gia Vargas, Montana State Billings, 163. 13, Hannah Adams, Montana State Billings, 168. T-14, Haylee Adams, Montana State Billings, 169. T-20, Adessa Lundberg, Montana State Billings, 175. T-20, Meilyn Armstrong, Montana State Billings, 175.

2024 GNAC Women's Golf Championships

The 2024 GNAC Women's Golf Championships will be held April 22-23 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. All five programs will compete in the two-round tournament with the team champion receiving the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championships.

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