HOOVER, Ala. – The pursuit of a Southeastern Conference crown for the Vanderbilt women’s golf team ended when the Commodores were ousted by Georgia Saturday in match-play quarterfinals.
The No. 4-seeded Commodores started slowly but moved into contention late in the match after comeback wins by Morgan Baxendale and Abbey Carlson. The No. 5-seeded Bulldogs clinched the match, 3-2, when Jo Hua Hung withstood a furious rally by Commodore senior Courtney Zeng.
The Commodores, ranked No. 4 nationally entering the SEC Championships, will move on to the NCAA Regionals, which start May 6.
Vanderbilt head coach Greg Allen said the Commodore comeback over the closing holes will only make the loss that much tougher on his squad.
“This one is gonna sting for a little bit,” Allen said following the match.
The Commodores were trailing from virtually the opening hole as four Georgia players earned early leads against their Vanderbilt opponents. Carlson was the only Commodore to take command early in her match.
“Abbey did a great job of jumping out to a lead and staying in control of her match all day,” Allen said. “Our other four players dug themselves into a hole. All of them battled but in the end, it was too much to overcome. In the end, Georgia made more clutch putts than we did.
“I thought the point by Mo (Baxendale) came at a huge time and gave us a lot of hope. Unfortunately, Auston battled to get all square in her match, then had to take a drop on her last hole. She almost found a way to save par and force extra holes,” Allen added.
Georgia’s Jenny Bae gave the Bulldogs an early advantage by defeating Commodore sophomore Louise Yu. After falling 3-down through six holes, Yu fought back but could never close the gap to a single hole.
Impressive wins by Baxendale and Carlson gave the Commodores a brief 2-1 advantage before Georgia responded with the clinch by winning a pair of late matches.
Baxendale was remarkable, coming back from an early 3-hole deficit to post Vanderbilt’s first individual win. After squaring the match with a par-3 on her 17th hole, Baxendale sealed her win with another par on the final hole.
Carlson earned the advantage over Georgia’s Rinko Miraunaga with a birdie on her sixth hole and never looked back. She capped the 2-up victory with a par on her 17th hole.
Zeng trailed to Georgia’s hot-shooting Jo Hua Hung for much of the day. Trailing by four with four holes to play, Zeng won two consecutive holes but missed a chance to reach the final hole when she halved the 17th hole with Hung.
Kim also fell behind, trailing by two at the turn, but tied the match with two quick birdies on her back nine. Kim and Georgia’s Harmie Constantino remained all square until the final hole, when Kim’s tee shot landed against a tree. After a penalty, Kim gave yourself a putt to extend the match but could not convert.
Vanderbilt is expected to make its 19th NCAA Regional appearance in the last 20 years. The Commodores will learn this week where they will compete. The regionals, scheduled May 6-8, will be staged in Auburn, Alabama, East Lansing, Michigan, Norman, Oklahoma and Seattle, Washington. The NCAA Championships is scheduled May 17-22 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Now, it’s time to get back to campus and through final exams, refocus and get ready for (NCAA) regionals,” Allen said.
SEC Women’s Golf Championship
Match Play Quarterfinals
No. 5 Georgia 3, No. 4 Vanderbilt 2
Morgan Baxendale (VU) over Gabriela Coello (UGA), 1-up
Jenny Bae (UGA) over Louise Yu (VU), 3-up
Harmie Constantino (UGA) over Auston Kim (VU), 1-up
Abbey Carlson (VU) over Rinko Miraunaga (UGA) 2-up
Jo Hua Hung (UGA) over Courtney Zeng (VU), 2-up