The No. 3-ranked Georgia women’s golf team opened its 2016-17 season in winning fashion on Tuesday, sweeping the individual and team titles at the Cardinal Kickoff at Berkeley Hills Country Club.
Harang Lee, competing individually, shared medalist honors with Elena Hualde of Auburn after both golfers shot matching scores of 73 and 68 to finish at 3-under 141. For Lee the win was her first collegiate victory a year after she posted four top-5 and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
“What a great start, especially with a big bullseye on your back,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “To have Harang claim her first individual title, I’m so happy for her. It’s been fun to watch her get better from her freshman year to now where she’s one of the best players in the country. She finally got that monkey off her back and, who knows, this may open it up to where she wins two or three more times this year.”
Due to a shotgun start, Lee finished her day on hole No. 15. Though she knew she played well, she did not know where she stood among the individual field.
“I was kind of out of it because I finished on hole No. 15 and we didn’t have any scoreboards,” Lee said. “I didn’t really think about my score much today because of that. It wasn’t that anything just clicked. If I missed a birdie putt, I didn’t get mad. I was just ready to get to the next hole. I think I was patient and relaxed and confident with my game. I was thinking ‘If not this one, maybe the next one.'”
Rinko Mitsunaga topped Georgia’s team individually by finishing third at even-par 144.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Mitsunaga said. “There are a few things I could work on individually, but team-wise, as in team dynamic and team bonding, I think we’re doing really well. The year is just starting but for myself I have a lot more confidence. I think this year, the scores are going to be a lot closer among the entire team. I think we’re going to have lower numbers this year and more wins, hopefully.”
All told, all eight Bulldogs in the field finished among the top-20, with Bailey Tardy placing fourth at 145, Jillian Hollis tying for ninth at 149, Isabella Skinner tying for 12th at 150 and Gaby Coello tying for 20th at 152. Competing individually, Sammi Lee tied for seventh at 148 and Mary Ellen Shuman tied for 16th at 151.
“We’ve worked hard the past few years in recruiting to have the depth that we have now,” Brewer said. “It doesn’t matter to us who is playing 3, 4 or 5, we have faith in them. Sometimes, qualifying is harder than a tournament. I think that keeps them motivated. As coaches, it’s great to see them rewarded for their hard work with another victory. Hopefully, this is the start of something special this year.”
Six of eight Bulldogs were tied for third place following the opening 18 holes as Coello, Mitsunaga, Harang Lee, Shuman, Skinner and Tardy all signed for 1-over 73s. In addition, Sammi Lee shot 75 and Hollis posted a 76.
The tallies of Tardy, Mitsunaga, Coello and Skinner comprised Georgia’s first-round team score, a 292 that put the Bulldogs up by four shots over Augusta.
The Bulldogs will return to action in two and a half weeks when they compete in the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 25-27. The elite tournament features 12 of the nation’s top teams, with Georgia securing a spot based on last season’s No. 5 final ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
Berkeley Hills Country Club
Par 72; 6183 Yards
Louisville B 309-302=611
Georgia State 307-308=615
Harang Lee, Georgia 73-68=141
Elena Hualde, Auburn 73-68=141
Rinko Mitsunaga, Georgia 73-71=144
Bailey Tardy, Georgia 73-72=145
Courtney Zeng, Vanderbilt 74-72=146
Harmanprit Kaur, Georgia State 74-72=146
Sammi Lee, Georgia 75-73=148
Olivia Cason, Louisville 75-73=148
Jillian Hollis Georgia 76-73=149
Jacqueline Twitty, Louisville 73-76=149
Linda Lindquist, Augusta 73-76=149
Additional Georgia Scores
T12. Isabella Skinner, Georgia 73-77=150
T16. Mary Ellen Shuman, Georgia 73-78=151
T20. Gaby Coello, Georgia 73-79=152