A marathon turned into a sprint at the Southern Conference Women’s Golf Championships. That was literal and figurative for Chattanooga Mocs junior Dorota Zalewska who captured medalist honors, the seventh in program history.
The field played a majority of the opening 36 holes on Sunday because of potential inclement weather on Monday. Day two was washed out so Zalewska finished her final two holes of round two in the early morning Tuesday before setting sights on a special final 18.
She and playing partner Becca Earl of Wofford dueled throughout their 54 holes at Barefoot Landing’s Dye Course. Zalewska was one ahead of Earl and Furman’s Sophia Burnett at 2 over heading to the 17th tee with Burnett several holes behind.
Zalewska measured her options on the 111-yard hole playing into the wind. She chose a pitching wedge and took an easy swing on it to account for distance and wind speed. The ball hit just short of the hole, hit the stick and fell straight down for an ace.
Earl birdied there and then chipped in for birdie on 18 to get to even with Zalewska eyeing a 5-footer for par. The putt went dead in the heart of the hole for a 1-under total of 215 for the tournament. It’s the third win of her career, second of the season.
“We knew the distance (on 17), and I hit a great shot,” Zalewska shared. “We saw it bounce and then the ball disappeared. Coach said ‘I think it’s in’ and then I heard Brenda (Paider, Sports Medicine) and Kenny (Jones, Compliance) screaming.
“I had no idea the putt on 18 won the tournament until Wofford’s coach congratulated me on winning and then I turned around and coach (Murray) said yeah. I’m excited to get to play in the NCAA Tournament. I remember when Moni (Monica San Juan) won and went when I was a freshman. I said then that one day that would be me.
“You keep going, stay patient and never give up.”
The Mocs shot their best round of the week with 10-over 298. Zalewska’s 1-under 71 led the way with Carolina Hortian adding 74. Esme Hamilton was a stroke behind her at 75, while Megan Docherty finished with 78.
Zalewska’s 1 under 54-hole score is her fifth par or better finish of the season and career. It’s her fifth top 5 of 2021-22 which is off the record six set by Emma de Groot in 2007-08 and matched in 2013-14 by Jordan Britt. Hamilton joined her in the top 10 ending up tied for ninth with 225.
The Mocs finished fourth as a team with a 910 final tally. Furman claimed the win at 899 followed by Wofford’s 903 and Mercer in third at 908. ETSU ended up fifth with 913 ahead of Western Carolina (919), UNC Greensboro (925), Samford (926) and The Citadel (993).
“Dori’s a winner and she proved that this week,” Coach Colette Murray shared. “The work she has done on her game turning things that were weaknesses into strengths says it all about here. I’m really proud of who she’s become over her career here.
“I’m also very proud of my team,” she added after being asked how hard it is to play with just four players. “We never gave up and never gave in. We shot the low round of the day, and I bet every one of them other than Dori is disappointed with how they finished. I’m really looking forward to getting this group and the new girls together and getting next year started.”
Zalewska earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships. She joins a list of Chattanooga winners that includes de Groot (2011), Britt (2012), Agathe Sauzon (2013), Emily McLennan (2014), Megan Woods (2016) and San Juan (2019). The announcement for regional location is Wednesday, April 27, at 5 p.m., on the Golf Channel.