DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Leah Onosato became the first Monarch women’s golfer in program history to win a conference tournament as the graduate student from Kumamoto, Japan won the 2023 Sun Belt Conference Championship on Tuesday at the LPGA International Hills Course.

Onosato led the three-day tournament from start to finish. She got off to a great start on Sunday as she tallied six birdies for a four-under par round of 68. She then took over sole possession of the overall lead with a one-over 73 on Monday, and posted another 73 in Tuesday’s final round. Her combined two-under 214 was enough to hold off ULM’s Chantal Dueringer, who placed second with an even 216.

“Leah has always been close to the top but not quite on top,” said head coach Mallory Kane. “She’s been resilient and gracious. Today she finally punched her way through in dominating fashion. It’s such a feat to win wire-to-wire and be the only player to shoot under for the tournament. We talk all the time about deserving and earning. Leah is definitely the most deserving, but it doesn’t usually work out that way. You have to earn it all and she finally did!”

Prior to Onosato, Maggie Simmermacher tied for second with a one-under 215 as the Monarchs won the 2017 Conference USA Championship. Melichova has the program’s other top individual performance at a conference championship, finishing second with an eight-under 208 at the 2021 CUSA Championship.

As a team, the Monarchs recorded a final round of 15-over 303 to come in seventh with a 908 (+44). Lucia Gonzalez shot a 76 for her final 18 holes, tying for 21st at nine-over 225. Klara Wildhaber tied for 31st with a 14-over 230, Minami Kudo finished tied for 45th at 240, and Pilar Muguruza rounded out the lineup with a 242 to tie for 49th.

Texas State and ULM finished the third round tied for first with 16-over 880s, and Warhawks won the team tiebreaker. Arkansas State was third with a total of 24-over 888.

With the win, Onosato earns the Sun Belt’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Regionals, which will be held on May 8-10. This marks the fifth time in as many seasons that the Monarchs will be represented in the postseason. Jana Melichova advanced to the NCAA Championships last year and Onosato received an at-large bid in 2021. The Monarchs received team bids in 2018 and 2019 and the 2020 edition of the NCAA Championship was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m so happy she’s our first-ever individual conference champion. She has always represented ODU with class and I’m thrilled she will have yet another opportunity to represent our team and university at the NCAA tournament,” added Kane.

Team Results
T1. Texas State (286-301-293 – 880) +16
T1. ULM (291-293-296 – 880) +16
3. Arkansas State (296-296-296 – 888) +24
4. Georgia Southern (292-302-306 – 900) +36
5. Southern Miss (301-309-292 – 902) +38
6. South Alabama (300-302-302 – 904) +40
7. Old Dominion (297-308-303 – 908) +44
8. James Madison (305-298-306 – 909) +45
9. Georgia State (298-305-307 – 910) +46
10. Troy (300-303-310 – 913) +49
11. Marshall (307-314-316 – 937) +73
12. Coastal Carolina (310-312-322 – 944) +80
13. App State (314-323-327 – 964) +100

ODU Lineup
1. Leah Onosato (68-73-73 – 214) -2
T21. Lucia Gonzalez (75-74-76 – 225) +9
T31. Klara Wildhaber (74-80-76 – 230) +14
T45. Minami Kudo (80-82-78 – 240) +24
T49. Pilar Muguruza (80-81-81 – 242) +26