College Golf: Strong finish will help Colonels next season
Centre College junior golfer Whitney Miller says she "played to my potential" in the final round of the NCAA Division III championship when she jumped from 28th place to 12th. (Mike Marsee / May 21, 2012)
But Miller said the results of most successful season in school history will spur continued growth in a program that has made a rapid rise in recent years, and she said it will motivate her to do even better as well.
Centre finished fourth in the NCAA Division III championships earlier this month, the best postseason finish in school history, after posting the lowest one-day score by any team in the tournament. Miller rocketed up the leaderboard in the final round to position herself as the Colonels’ leader for next season, when they return all but one player and she will be the only senior.
“Once you reach a certain point, there’s no going back,” Miller said.
Both Miller and the Centre program have apparently reached that point. Miller climbed from 28th place to 12th with an even-par 72 on the final day of the NCAA tourney at Angola, Ind.
“I made a big leap on the last day,” she said. “I think I played to my potential, maybe not the first day, but the last three for sure. It’s been a process getting there all fall and spring, so I was pleased with it.”
She was also pleased with the way the team played. Centre finished one stroke out of third place and just 14 strokes behind the four-day score of team champion Methodist (N.C.).
“We played really well. We were happy with our results. I think the last day was when we gave it all our potential,” Miller said.
The Colonels were led by senior Emily Bachert, who was the individual runner-up for the second straight year. Bachert finished in a three-way tie for second place, one shot off the lead.
“Emily did a great job. We would have liked to see her get the win, of course. We wanted it for her this year,” Miller said.
Miller said the success Bachert enjoyed during her career has been a key to the rise of the program.
“I credit her and (coaches Brian) Chafin and Bruce Brown with the program,” Miller said. “Getting a good, quality golfer has led to getting other quality golfers. She really jump-started the program, so we’re really thankful, but we’re sad to see her go.”
Bachert’s graduation leaves Miller as Centre’s top returning player after she improved sharply from last year to this year.
“It’s not even close,” she said. “I think more than anything, the course management part of my game has gotten a lot better.”
Miller, a Lexington native, plans to play in several summer tournaments as she can work them into her schedule. A financial economics and mathematics major, she also has an internship this summer at a Louisville wealth management firm.
She said she wishes the next season started much sooner than it will because of how well this season went and ended.
“It motivates you to work hard and to look forward to next season,” Miller said. “It’s what keeps you coming back, because you always know you can be better.”
Miller said it’s important for Centre to play well from start to finish next season, because the school is moving to a new conference that doesn’t yet have an automatic NCAA bid.
“We’re looking to get an at-large bid, so having a good season next year is really big for us,” she said.