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Rutgers, Jacksonville State’s Jinger Heath win

Jacksonville State's Jinger Heath won the NGI individual title. (Photo by Landon Ringler)

It had been a long day in the desert, and Jinger Heath probably had more golf to play. Heath was hitting a few putts, in case a playoff was on the horizon for the individual trophy at the National Golf Invitational. Her Jacksonville State teammates suggested she have a seat in the shade instead.

Heath, the freshman from Hartselle, Alabama, who is famous for needing little (if any) time to warm up, suggested they worry about head coach Robbie Fields instead. Normally she only hits a few drives on the range before going to the first tee, but, “at this one I didn’t want Robbie to freak out on me,” Heath joked.

“So I made sure to get an hour in of warming up.”

Hence her decision to roll a few putts while she waited for her chasers.

ScoresNational Golf Invitational | Photos

Heath posted rounds of 70-72-71 at the National Golf Invitational at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona, to reach 3 under. When she came off the golf course Sunday afternoon, Victoria Levy from North Carolina-Wilmington and Kelsey Kim from Santa Clara still had two or three holes to left, and both were hovering around 3 under, too.

Levy, a UNCW who transferred from Central Florida, had been even par through 13 holes before making three birdies and a bogey in her closing hole. Her final-round of 70 left her tied with Heath.

“After the round, Robbie was like, ‘OK, Jinger, if you’re going into a playoff, you need to be prepared,’” Heath said. “I’m like, I am prepared. What have I been doing all semester? He said you need to stay loose. I said I’ve hit 71 shots today, I think I’m loose enough.”

As Fields joked, “I think her lack of stress stressed me out more.”

Coach and player strode to the No. 18 together, the first playoff hole, where Heath drew honors off the tee. Heath aimed for a particular bunker in the background, just like she had all week, and hit the fairway. Her second shot landed a couple feet off the green and she lined up the birdie putt at the left edge.

“Every putt I get over, I tell myself to make it,” she said. “So I was like, make it.”

Remarkably, it hung on the edge before taking “one tumble” into the hole and giving Heath a postseason individual title in her first year of college golf. And in her mind, there’s no better way to win a tournament than with a playoff birdie.

Jacksonville State's Jinger Heath won the NGI individual title. (Photo by Landon Ringler)

Jacksonville State’s Jinger Heath won the NGI individual title. (Photo by Landon Ringler)

Heath proudly noted that she won the first…


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