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May 13, 2024

JSU’s Jinger Heath wins National Golf Invitational

By Alabama Golf News Staff
Jinger Heath

Record-smashing freshman wins in playoff

MARICOPA, Ariz. – Jinger Heath capped a memorable freshman season with a memorable moment, winning the Golfweek National Golf Invitational in dramatic fashion.

The true freshman from Decatur sank a 30-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the first playoff hole on Sunday to edge UNCW’s Victoria Levy. The winning putt sat on the lip of the cup for a second before finally dropping and giving Heath her second collegiate win and Jacksonville State’s first-ever postseason golf victory.

The Gamecocks were one of 10 teams playing in the invitation-only NGI at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, a 54-hole tournament featuring the top teams just on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Heath won the event against a field of 52 players that featured just nine ranked higher than her in the national rankings coming in.

“This was an incredible opportunity for our team, and Jinger took full advantage,” head coach Robbie Fields said. “I am amazed at her composure through a tough start, the pressure coming down the stretch, and especially during the playoff. For a freshman to step up like that, like she has all year, is special. I’m so excited for her to finish such a special season this way and I’m so proud of all she’s accomplished so far.”

Jinger Heath: ‘A special way to end my freshman season’

Jinger Heath was steady, playing the par-72, 6,295-yard layout at 3-under over 54 holes. Her total score of 213 was just enough to get her into a playoff with Levy, and her long putt was what she needed to bring home the win in the Gamecocks’ first postseason appearance since 2021.

“This was such a special way to end my freshman season,” said Heath, who played her high school golf at Hartselle High School. “I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent Jax State in the post season.”

She opened play with a 2-under 70 on Friday, followed by an even-par 72 in Saturday’s second round that had her tied for the lead with one round to play. Two bogeys in Heath’s first four holes and three on her front nine didn’t deter her. She rallied for three birdies over a bogey-free back nine that put her in position to make it to the playoff.

The win capped the best season by a freshman in Jax State history, one that saw Heath set a freshman scoring record with a 73.30 scoring average. That mark, the third-best scoring average in school history by any player. She broke the freshman record of 74.65 set in 2020-21 by Berta Sanchez. She also moves into third all-time in career wins with two and did so by the end of her freshman campaign.

The Gamecocks finished seventh in what was an impressive 2023-24 season by a roster with four freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. They shot a three-day score of 901 in the NGI, capping a season scoring average of 297.61 that broke the previous school record of 299.03 set by the 2021-22 team.

The other true freshman in Fields’s lineup claimed a top-20 finish as Ashley Stevenson tying for 20th with a 54-hole score of 226. 

The team from Rutgers won the event, one that featured eight teams ranked ahead of the 132nd-ranked Gamecocks. and 10 teams that were all ranked in the top 150 in the nation.
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Featured image of Jinger Heath courtesy of Jacksonville State Athletics

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