High Point gets a Big South tuneup with Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday title at Caledonia

Lyndsey Hunnell has devised a way to stave off late-round fatigue. It’s called the Bonus Bev, and her High Point women only earn the reward by playing the final five holes of a competitive round in even par or better.

“Sometimes you’ll kind of see teams coast off for the last couple holes, getting tired, but these girls really grind their ball the last five and that’s kind of when they moved up the leaderboard a little bit more,” Hunnell said.

Late-round energy gave the Panthers a three-shot victory at the Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Collegiate. Wednesday’s final round was wiped when heavy downpours made the course unplayable and the tournament reverted to 36-hole scores. High Point had played the first two rounds in 6 over, which left them ahead of runner-up Florida Gulf Coast with Cal Poly in third another five shots back.

Scores: Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Collegiate

In the second round, High Point played the closing holes in 4 under, which gave them a big boost. (Players nicknamed the game Bonus Bev because often, they’ll use their reward on a drink at Starbucks.)

Hunnell had also prepared her players for the nasty conditions they would likely see in the final round – big gusts and downpours. Bogeys would be part of the game.

“It wasn’t going to be perfect conditions out there and just to kind of roll with what we could and just kind of embrace what we had in front of us because everyone else had to lay in the same conditions,” she told them. Ultimately, of course, those third-round scores were wiped.

Hunnell, who played collegiately for Virginia before using a fifth-year at Xavier, is in her second year coaching at High Point after spending the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Campbell. In her last year at Campbell, that team won a fall event at Caledonia, so even though High Point had not played in this event before, the team benefited from savvy coaching.

“I knew the course pretty well and that it’s a little bit shorter,” she said. “We practiced a lot more wedges last week and really knowing our numbers. . . . I knew it was going to set up well for my team and that’s why we were really excited we were going to get to go.”

So far this season, High Point has won once and finished inside the top 5 another six times. Hunnell brought in three new players this year who made an immediate impact in the lineup. That includes fifth-year Wake Forest transfer Julia McLaughlin and Anna Howerton, a freshman from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who led High Point at Caledonia with a third-place finish individually at 1 under. She finished two shots behind individual medalist Hannah Karg of Coastal Carolina.

Hannah Karg of Coastal Carolina won the individual title at Caledonia. (Golfweek photo)
Hannah Karg of Coastal Carolina won the individual title at Caledonia. (Golfweek photo)

Hannah Karg of Coastal Carolina won the individual title at Caledonia. (Golfweek photo)

“I think it’s helped the girls to know I’m bringing in fresh blood and you have to earn your spot, you can’t just expect to keep it year to year,” she said. “I think that’s kind of been the vibe and they have all such great team chemistry and they get along so well.”

In fact, the players at home typically set an alarm so they can send off a team good-luck text before the start of a round.

High Point needs a team firing on all cylinders heading into the Big South Conference Championship in two weeks. To get through a bit of a slump recently, Hunnell gathered her team to re-evaluate their progress.

“I showed them their goals they had set at the beginning of the spring and showed them where they were at so I think that kind of sparked a little bit of their drive, and they’ve been working really hard before this tournament,” she said.

Campbell has always been the powerhouse in the Big South, having won the last seven straight league titles (and the Automatic Qualifying spot into NCAA Regionals that goes with that), but Campbell made the move to the CAA before this season.

Last spring, High Point lost to the Camels in the final match. High Point is the heir apparent to Campbell, but Hunnell knows the Panthers need to walk into that spot with confidence.

“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder there,” she said. “We’ve been in contention and we know what it feels like and we know what to expect.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek