Skipton’s Lucy Eaton helps Panthers show their claws in NCAA triumph

SKIPTON’S Lucy Eaton provided the inspiration as her American university’s team pulled off a spectacular victory in the NCAA finals in Florida, the top annual competition on the US collegiate golf circuit.

Skipton's Lucy Eaton, front left, with her Florida Tech team-mates after victory in the NCAA finals in Florida.

Twenty-three-year-old Eaton, who lives in Skipton and has just completed her fourth and final year of a university golf scholarship in the US, was a member of the Florida Tech team The Panthers that won the NCAA Second Division.

Success was all the sweeter as team members had been shocked to learn earlier this year that the women’s golf programme at the university was to be scrapped after the Spring season.

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Eaton commented at the time: “We all just had our mouths open in shock. No one could say anything. We were just all heartbroken.”

Later that day on the team’s group chat, she wrote: “New target acquired. Let’s go win nationals.”

The Florida Tech team channelled their dismay and frustration into raising their on-course efforts, finishing fourth in the Sunshine State regionals in Cleveland - considered to be the most competitive in the US.

Eaton had the lowest score in any round of four-under-par and finished seventh overall. In the stroke play qualification of the All America Finals she came third individually.

The Panthers advanced to the NCAA Championship staged at Palm Beach Gardens before going on to land the Division Two title on its last day of existence and for the first time in the school’s history.

Eaton, who graduated a fortnight ago and extended her stay in the US while representing the university in the finals, went off in the lead match in the match play final, played with a stroke play format, and found herself six down after 12 holes.

She rallied remarkably to put the first point on the board for the Panthers with a birdie at the 18th. It was a result that clearly motivated the team as they pulled off a stunning victory.

Bill Jurgens, Florida Tech Head of Sport, said: “The team has become inspirational. Their story is truly amazing accomplishment and Lucy has the right attitude for greatness.”

A spokesperson for Skipton Golf Club commented: “This was an incredible result. Lucy’s performance in this five-day marathon has been extraordinary and she has absolutely led from the front. She was very much the inspiration behind the overwhelming result.”

Eaton, who joined Skipton as a junior in 2006 aged ten, is a former junior captain. Last year she won the Bradford & District Ladies Golf Championship.

Skipton’s juniors, the reigning champions in the Bradford & District Junior League Division 1, are coached by PGA-qualified professional Ben Mallinson.