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Viking Watch

Portland State women’s golf — a perennial power — made sure last week that Viking athletics wouldn’t go through 2013-14 without a Big Sky team title.

The Vikings won the conference tournament with a sparking final round at Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Ariz. PSU’s five-woman lineup had its best overall day of the season in the third and final round, as the Viks broke out of a 36-hole tie and won the event by 15 shots, 895-910, over Sacramento State.

It was Portland State’s fifth Big Sky women’s golf crown since 2003, and the first since 2011.

The PSU women’s soccer and volleyball teams were first in the Big Sky regular-season standings this school year, but came up short in their conference tournaments.

The golf squad broke through with A Ram Choi, a junior from Surrey, British Columbia, leading the way in the desert. She fired a closing, 5-under-par 67 to claim the individual title at 5-under 211. Her 67 tied the tournament and PSU record of former Viking Britney Yada.

Before the final round, first-year PSU coach Kailin Downs noted that few players get a chance to win a league title, so they should “embrace and have fun with it.”

The Vikings responded: All five players shot or tied their best round of the week.

“It was cool to see everybody take it up a notch,” Downs says.

Choi says the Vikings talked before the final 18 “about how we were the most-skilled players out there and how there was no reason why we shouldn’t win it, and also that we should just win it for ourselves.”

Choi says all parts of her game were working well in the final round. A turning point came on the par-3 4th, when Choi birdied and the eventual runner-up, freshman Taylor Viuelia of Southern Utah, made double bogey. “I felt right there that I was going to win,” she says. When Choi rolled in a long birdie putt from off the green at No. 7, she was even more on her way.

Choi says her golf game is “so much better” than it was last season, when she earned Big Sky player-of-the-year honors but the Vikings lost an early nine-shot lead in the conference tourney and wound up second, four strokes behind Northern Arizona. “I made little swing changes with my transition to get more distance,” she says, and she is driving the ball 10 to 15 yards farther, out to 250 off the tee, and has gained 20 yards with her irons.

Other PSU players and their 2014 Big Sky results: freshman Madisen Bentley, 226, tie for sixth; sophomore Alyssa Waite and sophomore Kristin Henno, 229, tied for 11th, and junior Kelly Miller, 240, tie for 33rd. In the final round, Bentley shot 75, Waite and Henno each had a 74, and Miller carded a 79.

Downs should have a solid team next season, too, although she says she expects to lose some players via transfers.

The 2014 Vikings have at least one more tournament — a 24-team regional May 8-10 at Cle Elum, Wash. The top eight teams advance to the NCAA championships.