Zhou captures tournament title, women’s golf finishes third
Battling through sickness, rain and stiff competition, junior Connie Zhou fired the best two-day score (152) of the tournament to lead the Washington University women’s golf team to a third-place finish at the O’Brien Invitational South Bend, Ind.
On the first day of the invitational, the Bears rode Zhou’s Sunday score of 73 to hit for a 323 mark overall, which put them 16 strokes behind eventual champion Wittenberg University yet still in second place overall out of 10 teams. On Monday, the team shot an improved 321 to bring its two-day total to 644, putting it 10 strokes behind Wittenberg and just three behind second-place George Fox University.
Senior Olivia Lugar, a three-time All-American, also provided a boost for the Bears by recording a two-day score of 158 to finish in a tie for eighth place. Junior Erin Lawrence (169, 28th place), freshman Erin Drolet (170, 32nd place) and sophomore Samantha Han (173, 39th place) also competed for the Red and Green.
Zhou, who fought off a fever-stricken night of little sleep before her impressive Sunday performance, was able to put her illness behind her in order to overcome a particularly difficult course and win the second tournament of her career.
“I think that [Warren Golf Course] is one of the hardest out of any of the courses that we play all year, but I was really stable on the first day and driving the ball really well,” Zhou said. “I’ve struggled at [Warren] previously, so to finally play well is really satisfying. I’m also proud of the team for improving as a group on the second day; it’s easy to let the course defeat you mentally, but we bounced back.”
The South Bend weather provided added adversity for Zhou and her teammates, as the course was wet with rain from earlier in the week, which affected the speed of the course’s grass.
Wittenberg freshman Jane Hopkinson-Wood competed against Zhou every step of the way, and she also finished with a score of 73 on Sunday. For Zhou, sickness, a soaked course and tough head-to-head competition were nothing compared to the potentially devastating second-round quadruple bogey on the 16th hole. Fortunately for the Bears, Zhou overcame that obstacle, too, by finishing with a score of 79 on Monday—just one stroke ahead of Hopkinson-Wood, but still good enough for first place overall.
“To win the O’Brien is special,” head coach Sean Curtis said. “It’s a great golf course, a real test. It has severe greens and amazing rough, and not amazing in a good way.”
Nonetheless, Curtis was hesitant to put too much stock in the early fall performance since many of the Red and Green’s goals, such as winning a Division III national championship, won’t be attainable until the spring season.
“It’s so early,” Curtis said. “I just want to compete and see us continue to improve…We’re still trying to figure out what our lineup is; we’re working on getting a feel for our team.”
The Bears will look to gain further experience and work toward their lofty goals at this weekend’s tournament at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.