NAU, MSU’s Crawford Big Winners at Big Sky golf

CHANDLER, Ariz —  Northern Arizona and Montana State’s Paige Crawford left the 2013 Big Sky Conference Championship extremely happy.

Northern Arizona won its seventh team championship – most in league history – topping Portland State by just four shots.

The teams entered the final day at the Ocotillo Golf Resort tied. Paced by a 1-under-par 71 from junior Kaitlen Parsons and a 72 from freshman Savana Bezdicek, the Lumberjacks shot a final-round 290 to finish with a 54-hole total of 882.

“I felt the with the way the course was playing and the perfect weather, you were going to have to shoot a pretty good score today,’’ said Northern Arizona coach Brad Bedortha. “Shooting 300 wasn’t going to get it done. It was a great match. Out there, I felt completely comfortable and confident in my team.”

Crawford, a junior from Colorado Springs, Colo., set a 54-hole championship record en route to claiming medalist honors. Crawford, who fired a 68 in Monday’s second round and a 73 on Sunday, tied the single-record championship record with a 67 on Tuesday. Crawford’s total of eight-under, 208 broke the previous record of 210 set by Portland State’s Britney Yada in 2011.

“I’m shocked right now,’’ Crawford said. “It seems so unreal right now. It’s amazing that everything came together and I played the best golf of my life. I feel like this is just the beginning of what I want to do with my life. I was on the course thinking I just needed to keep making birdies because I don’t know what everyone else is doing.”

Crawford began the day with a one-shot lead over 2012 champion Carleigh Silvers of Northern Colorado. There was some great golf played Tuesday, but Crawford basically slammed the door on the rest of the field when he made the turn at two-under 34.

Crawford’s day included six birdies and one bogey. During her final two rounds, she recorded 10 birdies and just one bogey.

Crawford became the third golfer in league history to shoot 67 in the championship. Northern Arizona’s Bethany Leclair carded a five-under in 2011 at Ocotillo. Yada shot 67 in last year’s final round. Crawford’s seven-shot margin of victory tied the league championship record set previously by Portland State’s Taya Battistella in 2001.

“I’ve been working on my putting,’’ Crawford said. “Coach (Brittney Basye) has been helping me a lot. I started to get back the feel I used to have. Once you get the confidence, you feel like you can make anything, and that’s how I felt this week.’’

While the race for medalist honors was over early, the team race went down to the wire. Northern Arizona held a slim lead most of the afternoon, and held off the Vikings, who were also seeking their seventh championship.

The Lumberjacks improved their score each day, opening with a 299 and following with a 293. The 290 recorded on Tuesday tied the best final round in tournament history. Darian Spivey shot a 73 and senior Stephanie Kim shot a two-over 74 to go along with Parsons’ 71 and Bezdicek’s 72. Susanna Mejia shot a 79 that wasn’t counted in the team score.

Parsons’ 54-hole total of 1-under-215 tied for second along with Yada, who shot a final-round 72. Northern Arizona’s championship was its first since 2009.

“Our girls hit great golf shots,’’ Bedortha said. “They did awesome. I was very impressed with my players and how they handled themselves, the composure they showed. It’s really, really special to win.”

Northern Arizona earns an automatic bid to the NCAA West Regional, which will be played May 9-11 at Stanford.

The top five individual finishers were named to the All-Tournament Team. Joining Crawford, Parsons and Yada in the top five were Portland State sophomore A Ram Choi, who finished fourth with an even-par 216. Choi closed with a two-under-par 70.

Silvers of Northern Colorado, Sacramento State senior Kercia Brakel and Montana senior Olivia Weber tied for fifth at 215. Brakel shot back-to-back 71s, the best rounds of her collegiate career. Weber shot rounds of 71, 74 and 72. Weber helped Montana to a final-round 290.

League newcomer Southern Utah and 2012 champion Northern Colorado tied for third in the team race at 901. Sacramento State was fifth with a 904.

Eastern Washington senior Jayme Carbon capped her collegiate career with a three-under 69. She helped the Eagles to a sixth-place finish with a 911.

Big Sky Golf results

— Big Sky Conference