ORLANDO, Fla. – The Vanderbilt women’s golf team opened the spring with a bang Tuesday, using a late birdie barrage to pull away and claim an impressive victory at the UCF Challenge.
With four Commodores registering under-par rounds, Vanderbilt finished with an eight-stroke cushion over runner-up Kent State to earn its first team title in seven appearances at the tournament.
The overpowering win continues an impressive stretch for Greg Allen’s squad. The nationally-ranked Commodores entered the tourney off a strong fall campaign that included a wire-to-wire victory at the Mason Rudolph Championships and runner-up result in the Powerade Cougar Classic.
Allen walked away from the trophy ceremonies proud of the resilience his squad showed after methodically working its way up the leaderboard in the first two rounds.
“I’m so proud of this team and the resiliency they showed, especially on the last seven holes. They overcame some adversity, stayed patient and played some really great golf down the stretch,” Allen said.
The Commodore lineup amassed 13 birdies over the last seven holes to finish the day with a 7-under-par of 281. Freshman Auston Kim, junior Abbey Carlson, sophomore Morgan Baxendale and senior Courtney Zeng produced multiple birdies during the decisive stretch.
Kim, one of four Floridians competing for the Commodores, continued her outstanding play, finishing one stroke shy of sharing medalist honors. The freshman finished the tournament with a 10-under-par 206, earning a tie for second.
Two other Commodores from Orlando, Zeng and Baxendale, earned top-15 individual finishes. Zeng finished in fifth-place tie at 7-under-par 209. Baxendale fired the team’s low round Tuesday, a 3-under 69 to earn a 15th-place tie with a 213.
With the Commodores back in action for the first time since early November, Allen didn’t know what to expect entering the tournament.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect coming out of the offseason. A few of the girls took some much-needed rest for a good bit of the Christmas break,” Allen said. “We talked about having fun, playing with a positive attitude and giving great effort. That’s exactly how we performed this week.”
Kim capped the tournament off remarkably. Struggling at 3-over-par through 13 holes on Tuesday, Kim went on an amazing run by making birdie on five of the last six holes to finish at 2-under-par 70.
Baxendale also produced her best round Tuesday, notching four birdies in a 3-under-par round.
Zeng enjoyed one of the most consistent tournaments of her Commodore career. She made just two bogeys over the three-day event, finishing with her second top-five result of the 2018-19 season.
Carlson made five birdies in a 2-under-par 70. two birdies during a round of 3-over-par 75. Louise Yu provided excellent support with an even-par 72.
Sophomore Virginia Green, a product of Fairhope, Alabama, shot a 2-over 74 competing in the individual race.
The Commodores are off until Feb. 16-17 when they will compete in the Reynolds Lake Oconee Collegiate Invitational in Georgia.
UCF Challenge Team Standings
1. Vanderbilt 283-277-281 – 841
Vanderbilt Individual Scores
2. Auston Kim (-10) 70-66-70 – 206
T-4. Courtney Zeng (-7) 70-68-71 – 209
T-15. Morgan Baxendale (-3) 72-72-69 – 213
T-33. Abbey Carlson (+1) 71-75-71 – 217
T-49. Louise Yu (+3) 76-71-72 – 219
Other Vanderbilt Participants
T-91. Virginia Green (+14) 78-78-74 – 230