The Bradley women’s golf team placed third in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship this week at the par-72 Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton, Indiana. Junior Taylor Ledwein led the Braves over the two-day event with her fourth-straight top-10 finish.
SIU won the team title by seven shots at 905, with UNI finishing in second at 912. The Braves claimed third place for the third time in four seasons at the MVC Championship with 914, edging fourth-place Indiana State by one stroke.
Prior to the start of the 54-hole tournament, the league postponed the opening round scheduled for Sunday due to weather conditions of rain, wind and snow. As a result, the first two rounds were played on Monday, with the last round following on Tuesday.
Interim head coach Grant Escue said while the conditions were poor throughout the event, the team still shot under its yearly scoring average.
“It wasn’t easy conditions out there, it was windy and it was wet,” Escue said. “We were beneath our yearly scoring average for all three rounds. Our scoring average was just under 309, and we finished under that all three rounds. I was happy with the way they performed.”
Escue volunteered for interim head coach in October 2018 after the school couldn’t find a suitable replacement for former head coach Mary Swanson, who coached the Bradley women’s golf team from 2010 to 2018. According to Escue, it was a role he had to take.
“I had become very close with every single girl on the roster from getting to know them the past couple of years,” Escue said. “So, I volunteered to take on the role because I want to make sure those young ladies get a good experience because they deserve the best.”
Prior to being made head coach, Escue served as the assistant coach from 2015 to 2018 under Swanson. Escue, a former Bradley baseball player, has always played golf but found that coaching it offered something different.
“I’ve always played golf but rarely played it competitively,” Escue said. “I have a coaching background; I’ve coached baseball. So the way I look at coaching, your subject matter changes from sport to sport, but good coaches are good coaches.”
By the end of first round, Bradley sat in fifth place in the 10-team event with a combined score of 295. Team leaders Southern Illinois finished five shots ahead at 300 in 18 holes.
Ledwein went big for the Braves on Monday, shooting a first-round 3-over-par 75 and second-round 1-over-par 73, putting her just two shots behind the leader, Northern Iowa’s Sydney Eaton. Senior Brooke Thompson finished her day tied at 11th at 151 overall, following 4-over-par 76 and 3-over-par 75 performances.
Ledwein noted that while she wasn’t far behind, she was frustrated after the first two rounds.
“I didn’t have my best game. [I] wasn’t hitting the ball too well,” Ledwein said. “But it’s golf and sometimes it’s all about scrambling and just finding ways to make par. And I was able to do that and not get frustrated when I didn’t start out with how I wanted to and was able to turn that around.”
Ledwein hit a 3-over-par 75 to finish at 223 overall. She finished in fourth behind Indiana State’s Thilda Staubo, who shot 221. Missouri State’s Abby Cavaiani edged out Eaton on the second playoff hole for the individual title.
“[The event] was good. I’ve just been playing really consistently towards the end of the year, which is the time that we need to play consistent,” Ledwein said. “I just felt like I didn’t really have my best game at the championship; I just found ways to make par.”
Thompson carded a 5-over-par 77 in the final round to finish at 228 in 11th. Junior Megan Medinger tied for 15th at 231, following her third 5-over-par 77. The junior concluded the season with her best stroke average in collegiate competition at 78.04.
Escue said that SIU and UNI outplayed the team at the end of the day.
“We were disappointed as a team, obviously, that we didn’t win the championship,” Escue said. “But I thought we played well, I thought we competed. The moment wasn’t too big for us in any way, shape or form. We weren’t in a really good spot mentally. There were just two teams that outplayed us.”
Senior Frankie Saban notably completed her career as a Brave with a 5-over-par 77 at 236 to finish in 29th. Saban finished ninth in career rounds played (105) and sixth in stroke average (77.83) all-time at Bradley.
Ledwein and Saban both received All-MVC performers for the second straight year. Saban has notably earned All-Valley honors every season of her collegiate career. According to Ledwein, it goes to show the work the program is doing in golf.
“It was fun and I’ve been lucky enough to do it all three years,” Ledwein said. “It’s cool for Frankie [Saban] to do it too, especially her senior year. It just shows all the work we’re doing here is paying off. I just need to continue to get better and build that scoring average each year. Next year, hopefully it’ll be a little bit lower with some more work over the summer.”