Before this weekend, the Michigan women’s golf team had competed at the Big Ten Championship 36 times. In each of those tournaments, the individual Big Ten champion was not a Wolverine.
The 37th time was different.
Sophomore Elodie Van Dievoet won Michigan’s first ever individual Big Ten title this weekend, posting a six-under-par 210 to win the championship by one stroke. Van Dievoet highlighted a less memorable weekend for the Wolverines as a whole, who finished the championship in fifth place.
Michigan opened the weekend at TPC River’s Bend in Maineville, Ohio on Friday with a first-round score of 295, which put the Wolverines in third place. Van Dievoet led the team with an opening-round 69, three-under-par and enough to give her solo control of first place. Freshman Alisa Snyder and junior Megan Kim each shot a three-over-par 75 on the day.
“We had a pretty solid round the first day,” said Michigan coach Jan Dowling. “We walked off the golf course feeling like we put ourselves in a pretty good position.”
With the third-place standing after the first day, Michigan played in the final pairing alongside leader Northwestern and second-place Wisconsin.
Saturday proved to be a bit tougher for the Wolverines. The team shot a total of 304 on the day, leaving it 26 strokes behind leader Northwestern after two days.
“Fifteen or sixteen holes we played pretty darn well,” Dowling said. “But unfortunately a round of golf is 18 holes.”
Going into Sunday, Michigan was all but out of contention for the team title. Van Dievoet, though, was still very much in contention after posting a second-round 71. With a two-day score of 140, she was four strokes behind Michigan State’s Sarah Burnham, who shot a nine-under-par 63 to snatch the individual day-three lead.
“The course suited her very well —– it was set up very long, and it was windy,” Dowling said. “She’s a long hitter, and on top of that, she hits these beautiful high-iron shots. You really had to hit these high, soft shots to get it close and she’s capable of doing that.”
The Wolverines rebounded Sunday, shooting a weekend-low 293 to hold steady at fifth place with a team total of 892. Snyder shot a weekend-low 70 to co-lead the team on the day. Michigan finished eight strokes behind fourth-place Wisconsin and 26 strokes behind champion Michigan State.
“I’m proud of the way they came back,” Dowling said. “They were pretty consistent the last day, and we shot our lowest round of the week on the last day, in some pretty windy conditions.”
While the Wolverines knew their championship chances were slim from the moment they teed off on Sunday, Van Dievoet had to wait to know her fate. Michigan was in the second-to-last pairing of the day, while Michigan State — and Burnham — were in the final pairing that teed off nearly an hour later.
After birdieing the par-five 11th, Burnham sat at two-over for the day and six-under for the weekend, and would have needed to shoot the final seven holes at par to tie for the individual title. But Burnham bogeyed the par-four 14th, and after parring the next three holes, she was unable to follow in Van Dievoet’s footsteps and birdie the par-five 18th. She finished the weekend with a five-under-par 211, one stroke behind Van Dievoet — the only golfer in the field to shoot below par every day.
The victory is the first collegiate tournament victory for Van Dievoet, who has been the Wolverines’ leading scorer this year.
“She played brilliantly all week. I’m really proud of her,” Dowling said. “She’s been knocking on the door quite a bit this spring. We’re really excited for her and proud of her.”
After the Wolverines advanced to the NCAA Championship for just the second time in program history last season, Van Dievoet’s victory marks another previously unknown accomplishment for the women’s golf program. Dowling said the team will continue to make baby steps to become a top-tier program, and she is excited to learn Michigan’s postseason fate — potentially an NCAA Regional berth — during the NCAA selection show on Thursday morning.