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WOMEN'S GOLF: Morehead's Neal claims first collegiate title

Apr. 3—MacKenzie Neal was back on a familiar course earlier this week.

And she delivered a memorable performance.

The Morehead State graduate student claimed her first-ever individual collegiate title by winning the Colonel Classic at Gibson Bay on Tuesday in Richmond. Neal — a Madison Central graduate — shot an even-par 144 and beat out EKU's Rylea Marcum by two strokes for the championship.

Morehead State also claimed the team title with a score of 592. Bradley (600) was second and EKU (601) finished third.

The title was Morehead's second of the season.

"It was pretty special," Neal said of winning the shortened tournament. "A bunch of my family was there and I have friends on the team at EKU and a couple of the other schools. So, it was a lot of fun."

The first two rounds were held on Monday, with the final 18 holes set for Tuesday. The event, though, was shortened because of rain.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be played at the University Club at Arlington. It was moved because bunker renovations on the course.

"In the past few weeks, me and my dad went and played (Gibson Bay) a few times just as kind a refresher," Neal said.

Neal shot a +1 in the first round, finishing with two birdies (No. 3 and 18). In the second round, the grad student had four birdies (No. 3, 7, 12 and 17) and three bo(No. 5, 9 and 11).

"The course played really tough on Monday," Neal said. "It was windy and the greens were rolling out a lot. Obviously, the scores were indicative of that, but I felt that it helped that I was comfortable with the course."

Neal signed with Morehead State after a standout career at Madison Central, which included a state team title (2015) and five-straight top-10 individual performances at the KHSAA state tournament.

Neal was named to the All-OVC Newcomer Team during the 2019-20 season and has earned All-OVC honors in each of the next three years. In 2022-23, she had four top-25 finishes, including a season-best fourth place finish at the OVC Championships.

Neal was back on the course with two of her former Central teammates on Monday.

EKU's Mattie Jo Neeley shot a +13, 157, and and tied for 47th. She shot rounds of 79 and 78.

EKU's Claira Beth Ramsey fired a 73 in the first round, but then had to withdraw from the tournament.

Neal is studying bio medical science and plans to enroll in medical school at the University of Kentucky in the fall.