ANKENY – NIACC’s Thea Lunning didn’t get to play in the NJCAA Region XI women’s golf tournament as a freshman because COVID-19 canceled the 2020 spring season.
The sophomore from Mason City made up for it in her sophomore season.
Lunning placed fourth at the regional tournament Sunday at the Otter Creek Golf Course with rounds of 87-82 – 169 to punch her ticket to the NJCAA Division I national golf tournament.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Thea to make it to the national tournament after being denied playing last spring,” said NIACC coach Chris Frenz, who will be taking at least one women’s golfer to the national tournament for the 14th straight season. “It’s really a great reward for her hard work that she’s put in on her game over the past couple of years and to finish fourth in our league is really good.”
Iowa Western’s Luisa Gibson was the regional’s individual medalist with a 73-80 – 153. The Reivers, who won the team title with a 324-316 – 640, also had the second and third-place finishers in the 36-hole regional tournament.
Iowa Western’s Seira Kubo was second with a 82-74 – 156 and Katie Schweers was third with a 84-76 – 160.
The top five golfers for team champion Iowa Western plus the top 10 golfers not on the winning team qualify for the NJCAA Division I national tournament.
Lunning chipped in on the 18th hole from just off the green to secure her fourth place finish.
Lunning’s 36-hole total of 169 is the fourth best 2-day total at the regional tournament in the Frenz era. The 82 Lunning shot on Sunday was tied for the sixth best individual round at the regional tournament in the Frenz era, which began in 2007.
“There are some very good golfers in the league and she proved she’s one of them,” Frenz said. “She was dialed in (Sunday) with a strong 39 on the front in difficult playing conditions.”
Also for the Lady Trojans, Hailey Panos (93-105 – 198) and Ashley Voves (103-95 – 198) tied for 18th. Abby Murray shot a 109-94 – 203 and Jenna Paulus shot a 117-114 – 231.
“It’s always bittersweet at the end because while I’m elated for Thea, the others coming up short is disappointing,” said Frenz, whose team placed fourth with a 392-376 – 768. “But they’ll learn from this and come back stronger next year.
“Overall, it was a very good fall and spring season for this group.”
The NJCAA Division I national tournament is set for May 10-13 in Ormond Beach, Fla. at the Plantation Bay Golf Course.
“I’m excited to see how (Thea) does at nationals,” Frenz said. “Those courses are typically a little longer, but we haven’t played at this course before so I’m not real sure what to expect other than a championship-style course.”
Team standings – Iowa Western 324-316 – 640, Iowa Lakes 349-352 – 701, DMACC 342-362 – 704, NIACC 392-376 – 768.