Women’s golf stages record comeback in third-place finish
Wash. U. finished round one of the O’Brien National Invitational 19 strokes off the pace set by No. 1 Methodist University and No. 8 Centre College, but the Bears rallied in round two to move from seventh place up to third.
“This tournament is unique. You get an invite by finishing in the top-10 the previous year,” head coach Sean Curtis said. “It’s the best field that we will face in any tournament until we get to the NCAA Championships.”
Leading the charge was freshman Olivia Lugar, who followed her victory at last weekend’s NCAA Fall Preview with another on Monday. Lugar’s first round score of 78 was two strokes off the lead, but she improved by seven strokes to fire a school-record 1-under-par 71 and win the tournament by four strokes.“It’s always exciting to shoot under par, so that day things were just clicking. The first day, I felt like I could have shot a 71, but my putting wasn’t working and nothing fell for me,” Lugar said. “The second day, there was a kind of relief. All of us after the first day were like ‘we’re going to have a tough time winning this, so let’s go out and just play,’ and I think that attitude really helped me as well, along with the other players, because we were able to just relax.”
The Red and Green lowered its score by 29 strokes from 334 to 305, a new school record and the lowest score posted by any team at the tournament. Junior Hannah Buck improved from 84 to 76, sophomore Andi Hibbert moved up from 90 to 79, and freshman Taylor Fagan improved from 91 to 79.
“Shooting a 305 is unbelievable,” Buck said. “We went into our first tournament having no expectations, and we just did so well that we put too much pressure on ourselves the first day. I think we were all a little too tense out there, and it obviously didn’t go well.
“I’ve never seen our team work harder on the range and the practice green after a round than after that first round. We spent over an hour on the course practicing, which just shows our drive and our strength and that we were not going to give up. We just went out the second day and kind of had nothing to lose; we weren’t in the running to win the tournament, so we went out and played our game.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Bears’ performance was that it came against seven of the top-10 teams in the country. Wash. U. finished the tournament only eight strokes behind Methodist and only seven behind No. 2 and second-place DePauw University, whom the Bears defeated by 20 strokes at the Fall Preview.
Wash. U. has come out of the gates on fire; of the four rounds played thus far, two round scores (the Fall Preview’s second-round 308 and this weekend’s 305) have been lower than last season’s best score of 312, recorded in the second round of the Wartburg Fall Invitational.
“We have some key veterans returning. We returned three that had some good experiences last year and played some really good golf throughout the season,” Curtis said. “When you have a top-five returning player like Hannah, you’re already in a pretty good place. We have a good freshman class, [and] they are playing well. I liken their impact on the program to the same impact Hannah and [junior] Melanie Walsh had when they came in. You saw them elevate our team play to another level. It is early in the season, [but] I think you can see the same kind of impact on the program.”
Wash. U. looks to continue its bright start to the season at this weekend’s Illinois Wesleyan University Fall Classic, where last year’s squad shot a 638 and finished tied for second.
“We are playing pretty well. I just hope that we learn from this experience on the first day that if we just try to relax and play our game, all of the rest of the stuff will take care of itself,” Curtis said.