Zhou wins Golfweek Preview, leads team to second place
For the second straight year, junior Connie Zhou won the highly competitive Golfweek Fall Preview Championship to guide the Washington University women’s golf team to a runner-up finish at the tournament in Sandestin, Fla.
Zhou’s overall total score of 221 was the result of a consistent performance, as she shot an even-par 72 in Sunday’s opening round, followed by a two-over 74 on Monday and a three-over 75 in the final round on Tuesday. Zhou edged the second-place golfer from Washington and Lee University by just two strokes.
“It felt really good to win the Preview again,” Zhou said. “Last year, I felt lucky, but this year was different…it’s a special place for me.”
Winning the Golfweek Preview gave Zhou her third win of the fall season in just four tournaments. It was the fourth win of her career.
“I didn’t see many instances where she didn’t have just one solid hole after another,” head coach Sean Curtis said. “[She’s] very confident about her game…she’s been able to execute very well.”
Not a single Bear shot above an 81 over the first two rounds as Wash. U. built up a sizeable 18-stroke lead over the University of Texas at Tyler. But their lead vanished during the final round, as UT Tyler fired a school-record 291 to take top team honors with a seven-stroke victory.
“[UT Tyler] played really well, like incredibly well,” Zhou said. “It’s hard to compete with; it really shows how scores can change day to day.”
While the Bears let a big lead slip away on the final day, Curtis viewed his team’s performance in an optimistic light.
“I was really happy with the way we played,” Curtis said. “It’s not like a basketball game or a football game where you can get a defensive stop and turn the momentum around.”
Curtis recognized UT Tyler’s final round surge as a case of getting hot at the right time.
“They shot a school record,” he said. “At the end of the day, you tip your cap to them because they played so well.”
Junior Olivia Lugar fired the best single-round score of all the Bears with a one-under 71 on the first day, and she finished with an overall 228 to tie for sixth place.
Zhou and Lugar led the team with impressive performances despite the often-suspect weather conditions of the Florida course.
“It’s definitely not the hardest course,” Zhou said, “[but] what makes it hard is the weather conditions. If it gets really windy, it can get to you…[On the second day], it was raining sideways, and two umbrellas were loose on the fairways.”
Out of a total field of 86 golfers, Wash. U. also received top-25 performances from sophomores Jessica Wibawa (237 overall, tied for 19th place) and Samantha Han (239, 24th), as well as freshman Erin Drolet (240, 25th).
Now, the Bears must wait until the inaugural University Athletic Association Championship tournament in March to get back on the course competitively, and the team will turn to the offseason for improvement.
“We’ve built our lineup, and our newer players are getting the hang of things,” Zhou said. “We’re just going to continue to improve.”