A never-say-die Hope women's golf team captured the MIAA championship with an amazing comeback at the conference tournament this past weekend.
The Flying Dutch came into the tournament a decided underdog. In three earlier league jamborees Hope had been inconsistent, finishing fourth, then first and again fourth.
Coming into the conference tournament, Saint Mary's had recorded the best cumulative score while Hope had the fourth best. Under a new league format, the scores from the jamborees were not included in the final seasonal standings.
Trailing defending champion Albion by 20 strokes after the opening 18-hole round, the Dutch in the second round were able to finish 22 strokes ahead the Britons to gain the championship under first-year coach Tom Smith.
Hope ended two strokes ahead of Albion, 715-717, and three in front of tournament host Saint Mary's (718). Next was Alma at 761 followed by Kalamazoo 818, Adrian 845, Calvin 873 and Olivet 957.
The conference medalist, determined by the cumulative scores from three Jamboree and the conference tournament, was Courtney Rheinhardt of Alma. She finished eight strokes ahead of Hope sophomore Lacey Wicksall of Traverse City (Traverse City Central HS). Wicksall averaged 82.2 strokes per round this season. Now a two-time All-MIAA first team honoree, Wicksall was the conference medalist in 2000.
Junior Emily Colenbrander of Holland (Holland HS) tied for tenth in the final season standings (91.2) to achieved All-MIAA second team distinction.
Other Hope competitors at the conference tournament and their seasonal finish were sophomore Sarah Scholten of Grand Rapids (GR Christian HS), 14th (93.8); sophomore Marianne Brown of Midland (Midland HS), 16th (95.0); and senior captain Katie Miller of Novi (Novi HS), 17th (95.6).
Other members of the team include freshman Amanda Glas of Kalamazoo (Plainwell HS), freshman Jill Pinter of Belleville (Ypsilanti Lincoln HS), and sophomore Layne Shoaf of Midland (Midland HS).
Hope has won the MIAA championship six times since women's golf became an intercollegiate sport in 1991. Other championship years were 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, and 1998.