A dramatic late-day surge pushed Jenny Bae and the No. 18-ranked Georgia women’s golf team to the top of the leaderboards at the NCAA Columbus Regional on Tuesday. Perhaps more importantly, the Bulldogs put themselves in prime position to advance to the NCAA Championships.
Bae fired a 4-under 68 and the Bulldogs posted an even-par 288, the low individual and team rounds, respectively, of the second round at the Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course.
Entering Wednesday’s final round, Georgia is at 1-over 577, seven shots ahead of Michigan in second. Bae’s 5-under 139 tally is a stroke better than Michigan’s Monet Chun. Bulldog freshman Isabella Holpfer, who posted a second-straight 2-under 70 on Tuesday, is in third place, three shots back.
The Bulldogs played steady golf most of the day before putting their foot on the gas late in the day. Georgia played the final three holes at 6-under as a team. After spending most of the day in second, third of fourth on the leaderboard, the Bulldogs not only vaulted to the top spot but gained relatively significant distance on the field.
“The finish we had to day is exactly what you hope for,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “You hope for it but you also know how hard they’ve worked for it to come true. I’m so proud of how we hung around before that because it was brutal out there for a good bit of the day. From about No. 6 through No. 13 it was incredibly windy. We fought and gave ourselves a chance to have that type of finish.”
No. 16 was especially friendly, with all four Bulldogs with counting scores notching birdies on the 327-yard, par-4.
“That hole (No. 16) set up nicely for us,” Brewer said. “We were able to hit driver and then flip wedges in. We took advantage of our strength. It was great to see.”
Bae was 2-over through No. 11 but birdied six of her final seven holes, including a string of five straight from Nos. 12-16.
“I’ve felt like that a couple of times before, but it has been a while,” Bae said. “It sort of feels like you could fly almost. At the end, I was so happy I actually did it. When you’re playing and it’s mid-round, you really don’t think about making all those birdies. Honestly, I’ve been asking myself what happened. I was sort of struggling on my first nine holes. At the turn I decided I needed to get my stuff together and play aggressively.”
“It was a very special 90 minutes of golf,” Brewer said. “It shows the firepower she has. You wish every golfer would get to have that feeling at some point. Jenny has been playing really well the last several weeks so it’s not surprising that she was able to finish like she did today.”
Georgia’s effort was even more impressive when put into context of the second round scores. Monday’s first-round average was 75.67 among the 96 golfers in the field. On Tuesday, that tally ballooned by nearly two strokes per golfer to 77.54. The Bulldogs’ even-par effort was seven shots better than any other team on Tuesday.
Along with Bae’s 68 and Holpfer’s 70, Georgia also counted a pair of 75s from Caterina Don and Candice Mahé. Overall, Mahé is tied for 11th at 146, Don is tied for 34th at 151 and Jo Hua Hung is tied for 68th at 157.
Holpfer was the only Bulldog to make a birdie over the first 11 holes. She posted red numbers at No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6, while bogeying No. 5 and No. 8 to turn at 1-under. Holpfer moved back to 2-under with a birdie at No. 12. Following a bogey at No. 14, she birdied No. 16 before closing with a pair of pars.
“Isabella having it under par gave us hope that everyone could get there if we hit a few good shots and stayed patient,” Brewer said.
Don played a pivotal role in Georgia’s late-day run. After a double-bogey at No. 15 she found herself 5-over on the day. Don rallied with birdies at No. 16 and No. 18 to trim the Bulldogs’ team score by two strokes.
Trailing the Bulldogs and currently on top of the cut are Michigan at 584, No. 2 Duke at 585, No. 15 Kent State at 589, No. 7 Arizona State at 592 and Kentucky at 593. With 10 strokes of the Wildcats are No. 11 Virginia at 595, No. 24 Vanderbilt at 597, Oklahoma at 598 and Clemson at 602.
Georgia will be paired with Michigan and Duke on Wednesday, teeing off from No. 1 in waves between 10:50-11:30 a.m. ET. Live scoring is available via golfstat.com.
NCAA Columbus Regional
OSU Scarlet Course
Par 72, 6335 Yards
Tuesday’s Second-Round Standings
Kent State 291-298=589
Arizona State 291-301=592
Coastal Carolina 298-313=611
New Mexico 310-310=620
Youngstown State 322-318=640
Jenny Bae, Georgia 71-68=139
Monet Chun, Michigan 70-70=130
Isabella Holpfer, Georgia 72-70=142
Caley McGinty, Kent St. 70-73=143
Maria Villanueva, Kentucky 73-71=144
Celina Sattelkau, Vanderbilt 72-72=144
Beth Lillie, Virginia 72-72=144
Gina Kim, Duke 70-74=144
Hailey Borja, Michigan 69-75=144
Linn Grant, Arizona St. 71-74=145
Additional Georgia Score
T11. Candice Mahé 71-75=146
T34. Caterina Don 76-75=151
T68. Jo Hua Hung 75-82=157