For The Tribune
Paxton DeHaven was determined to finish her college golf career the way she started it — as a national champion.
Fortunately for DeHaven, a Seymour native, she had five University of Indianapolis teammates and a Greyhounds coaching staff just as unwilling to settle for anything less.
Earlier this month, UIndy dominated the NCAA Division II women’s championships at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston. Coach Brent Nicoson’s squad won by 38 shots over runner-up California Baptist to secure the program’s second national title in four years.
DeHaven was a starter on the 2015 champion, the first non-Florida program to win the women’s D-II crown. Indianapolis followed with runner-up and third-place finishes the last two years before reclaiming the championship earlier this month.
Indianapolis is one of only five Division II programs to have produced two or more national titles.
“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t really know what to expect. Then we win it, and I think we should do it every year,” DeHaven said. “There’s no better feeling than a national championship. It shows we don’t take anything for granted and take it one tournament at a time. The target on our back has gotten bigger every year, but we like it, for sure.”
Led by seventh-year coach and Greenwood resident Nicoson, the Greyhounds have finished in the top five at nationals five consecutive seasons.
The momentum started with UIndy’s ninth-place effort in 2012, Nicoson’s first season leading the women’s program (this season was his 13th as the school’s men’s golf coach).
“When I took over, they just didn’t believe they could play with teams from around the nation,” Nicoson said. “We started traveling a little more during the regular season to show the players their game could travel and that it didn’t matter who or where they were playing.
“If they were prepared, they could play with anybody in the country. The expectation now is if they do what they’re supposed to do, they can be a relevant factor at the NCAA championship.”
DeHaven, the two-time defending Great Lakes Valley Conference individual champion, carded a four-round total of 295 at nationals to finish tied for seventh individually. She was individual medalist in seven tournaments during her college career.
This year’s Greyhounds won 11 of 13 tournaments, including four hosted by Division I programs — Ball State, Fort Wayne, Butler and Bowling Green.
Nicoson often brings D-I talent into his program, which is a major reason why the Greyhounds are factors in most every event regardless the size of the schools competing.
“I want to know what their goals are,” Nicoson said of prospective recruits. “If I know it’s to play professional golf, I know they’re going to put in the work.”