Women’s golf wins 2nd straight Big Ten Championship behind Burnham’s success
Women’s golf continued its triumphant march through the spring season as the team won its second-straight Big Ten Championship from April 20-22.
Next for the Spartans is the NCAA Tournament Regionals on May 7.
The Spartans shot a three-round total of 5-under par and won the tournament by four strokes over Maryland and Illinois.
Senior Katie Sharp clinched the tournament with a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole.
“It was magical. That’s probably the best way to describe it,” Sharp said. “As soon as I started looking at the putt, I kind of had this feeling deep down that it was going to go in. I hit it, and the whole time, I was like, ‘it’s in, it’s in.’ It’s just incredible to be able to have that kind of shot to win the championship and pump up your team.”
Sophomore Paz Marfa Sans said she thought the putt would go long, but was ecstatic to see it drop.
“I was watching that putt from the spectator zone,” she said. “It was so fast, and I was just like ‘Hit the hole, go in, go in.’ When it went in, we just kind of screamed.”
Sharp’s putt was part of a strong finish for the Spartans, as they made five birdies on the 53rd and 54th holes of the tournament.
“I think we’re pretty poised and confident about our game,” senior Sarah Burnham said. “I think it proves that we’re ready for the national championships, and ready to take on any team in the country, just because we’ve been in those situations and been able to be clutch.”
Head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who was named on April 24 was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, was impressed with her team’s ability to handle the pressure of being the favorite to win and make big putts late.
“We were the ones with the target on our back. Golfweek picked us to win,” she said. “We were the highest ranked team for the majority of the year. That didn’t make me so uncomfortable because four of our six players were there last year. These are big-time kids. They’ve accomplished huge things already.”
Burnham finished second in the individual portion of the tournament after she shot 5-under par.
The Maple Grove, Minnesota, native also became the first MSU women’s golfer to win the Mary Fossum Award for the Big Ten player with the lowest stroke average to par through the course of the season.
This adds to Burnham’s long list of accolades, as she won her second Big Ten Player of the Year award and is expected to make her third All-American team.
“We’ve had a lot of good players throughout (my) 20 years. She’s going to go down as the best ever,” Slobodnik-Stoll said of Burnham.
Burnham said she has a list of goals she has kept in her locker since her sophomore season.
“When I first came in, I didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “I didn’t become a higher level player until my sophomore year. But then, I kind of realized, I want to be an All-American, I want to be Big Ten Player of the Year, I want to be part of a Big Ten Championship team.”
Slobodnik-Stoll said she liked Burnham’s ability to change her demeanor on and off the course at the flip of a switch.
“On the golf course and off the golf course she’s two different people,” she said. “(Burnham) has a sense about her when she gets on the golf course, and I’m not sure I can actually explain it even after being with her for four years. I think the easiest way for me to tell you is that when she gets on the golf course there’s a different mode that she gets into, and she knows she has a job to do and that’s what she’s there to do.”
Burnham agreed, and called it her “competition mode.”
“When it’s competition time, I’m focused on every shot,” Burnham said. “I know what I have to do. We've got to get something done, it’s my job and this is what I’m supposed to do.”
Marfa Sans said Burnham makes the whole team better.
“She is one of the most hard-working people I know,” Marfa Sans said. “She is a total leader, she’s like my big sister.”
With the Big Ten Championships over, the focus turns to the NCAA Tournament. The final days of the national tournament are made up of match play, a bracket-style competition between the top eight teams.
“We are good enough to make the match play portion of the NCAA tournament, I feel that in my heart, and that’s what I want to see them accomplish,” Slobodnik-Stoll said.
Sharp said she believes the Big Ten Championships can help propel them to national success.
“We’re still kind of on a high from Sunday, so anything is possible," Sharp said. "We definitely have the firepower to go compete well.”