"I know our team is destined for greatness," Hester said.
The Lady Razorbacks had several things working against them in the 54-hole event at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
Mainly, their best player, junior Amanda McCurdy, was suffering with a cold and a kidney stone.
"The entire event was somewhat of a battle for our kids," Hester said. "I was proud of them for fighting to the end, but this might be a motivating factor in the off-season. It might be a little humbling to have someone come in and whip them like this."
Iowa State had a 54-hole total of 905, while runner-up Texas A&M totaled 916 and Arkansas had 920.
Lisa Meshke, a fifth-year Iowa State senior who has overcome several ailments of her own, dominated the individual competition with 70-70-72--215 -- one under the women's par at Pinnacle.
Playing with McCurdy in Tuesday's final round, Meshke was often the longest hitter in her foursome. Even at 5-foot-1, McCurdy wouldn't have let that happen if she had been healthy.
But McCurdy played the tournament in obvious pain, and without a practice round.
Slow play and heavy winds plagued the players on Monday, and fog delayed them on Tuesday morning.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," Hester said. "In the past we've played so well here, but this week the entire tournament was a grind. We played very average. I think we need to get a little tougher."
Freshman Stacy Lewis had set the bar high for Arkansas in the first two fall tournaments, but she slipped a little in the last two. Still, she tied for 12th at 229, just one stroke behind McCurdy.
"We have so much potential, but we've yet to have everyone firing on all cylinders on the same day," Hester said. "It's exciting to have gotten this far without playing our best. I can't wait to see what we can do in the spring."
Arkansas' next tournament is the Central District Invitational in Parrish, Fla., on Feb. 21.
By then, junior Courtney Mahon should be most of the way through a significant swing change that she began last summer. At Pinnacle this week, she was up and down with 78-82-75 for 235.
Senior Gena Johnson had a solid tournament, shooting in the 70s each day. Lindsey Hinshaw shot 77-84-77, struggling in the wind on Monday.
Arkansas' depth showed when senior Lina Axelsson, playing as a non-counting individual, shot 75-80-79--234. Her score would have helped the first two days. Also, left-handed freshman Ashley Medders fired a final-round 75.
"Lina is coming off a broken wrist, but she'll be fighting for a spot in the spring," Hester said. "And you're going to love Medders. She'll be really good in time."
Two of Arkansas' Southeastern Conference opponents, Alabama and Ole Miss, competed at Pinnacle and finished 11th and 14th respectively.
"That's important to us," Hester said. "It also helped us to beat No. 7 Missouri and a couple of other teams getting votes in the rankings. Missouri is a solid team, both in our region and nationally."
McCurdy played alongside Denise Knaebel of Missouri in the final round and edged her, 78 to 81. The two had entered the day tied at 150.
At the end, Meshke praised the course conditions and the competition, and dedicated the win to her parents, who had shepherded her through all those injuries.
If McCurdy wins next year as a senior, she'll likely thank her parents, David and Linda, who followed her for 54 holes this year, carried her to their car on Monday and later answered her call for help when she was still ill and unable to sleep at 1 a.m.
McCurdy never thought of withdrawing from the tournament.
"I don't think I could keep her off the course," Hester said.
Hester Not Reading Too Much Into Finish
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