Three Gators land in Top 25 for Women’s Golf at end of SEC Championship

AUBURN, Ala. – Sophomore Mia Piccio (Bacolod City, Philippines), junior Evan Jensen (Belleair, Fla.) and sophomore Isabelle Lendl (Goshen, Conn.) all recorded top 25 finishes at the conclusion of the 2011 SEC Championship and the No. 24 University of Florida women’s golf team had its best round of the tournament, collectively shooting a 296 (+8) – which was the fifth-lowest score in the final round – at the par-72, 6,364-yard Auburn University Club Sunday.

The Gators closed the three-day event with a cumulative score of 907 that left them in ninth place.

“Overall, it was disappointing but we will find out where we are going next Monday and get ready for regionals,” head coach Jan Dowling said.

Piccio fired a 69 (-3) which tied for the second-lowest round in the field. She tallied six birdies, including five in her final seven holes, and her total score of 221 (+5) tied her for 12th overall. Piccio was one-over through six but a birdie on the par-5 16th, propelled her to a torrid stretch on her back nine.

“I started off solid, even (par) through five (holes),” Piccio said. “On 16, I didn’t hit a very good drive and I had to lay-up. I hit a good third shot to within eight feet and made the putt to get back to even. After that, I felt like I couldn’t miss a putt. I was reading it right, the speed was right and they were just dropping.”

The Philippines native began her birdie barrage on No. 3, hitting her second shot to seven feet and sinking the putt. She followed that with a 15-foot birdie putt on the next hole and after a double bogey on No. 5, holed a 30-footer for birdie. Piccio made a 10-footer for birdie on No. 7 and finished the round with a 20-foot birdie putt to complete her strong putting display. She was dominant on the par-5 each day of the event, combining to shoot eight-under on the 12 holes and led the field along with medalist Erica Popson of Tennessee in par 5 scoring. Her 15 birdies over the tournament’s three days were the most of any golfer.

“She snuck in there for another solid tournament and that’s awesome,” Dowling added.

Piccio has now placed 16th or higher in her last five events which is the longest such streak by a Gator since teammate Jessica Yadloczky (Casselberry, Fla.) finished in the top 16 seven consecutive tournaments during the 2008-09 season.

Jensen posted a 76 (+4) on day three to chalk up her third top 25 finish of the season, after tying for 17th with a 54-hole tally of 224 (+8). After going bogey-birdie on 11 and 12, four bogeys on her next nine holes dropped her to four-over but Jensen rallied, using birdies on No. 6 and No. 9 to stay at four-over. She tied for sixth among all golfers in par 5 scoring, going four-under and tied for 20th in par 4 scoring, finishing at eight-over.

Lendl was two-over on the front and back nines as she totaled a 76 (+4) that maintained her position from the start of the round, completing her second SEC Championship appearance in a tie for 24th, which marked her second top 25 of the season. She did damage throughout the weekend on the par 5’s, matching Jensen with a four-under on those holes.

Junior Andrea Watts (Bradenton, Fla.) had her best round of the tournament, shaving five strokes off her first and second round scores with the 75 (+3) she posted Sunday. She bogeyed her second hole but rebounded with a birdie on 12 and registered 13 pars in her remaining 15 holes.

“She was a little more solid around the greens and that was the only difference between today and the last two rounds,” Dowling said.

Yadloczky carded a 79 (+7) in her final round that was highlighted by a birdie on No. 2 – a hole that only four golfers birdied in the final round.

Florida now awaits the selection of regional participants to one of three sites: Daytona Beach, Fla., South Bend, Ind. and Seattle, Wash. 24 teams and six individuals not on those teams will compete at each regional site with the low eight teams and the low two individuals not on those teams, advancing to the NCAA Championship.

“We’ll be anxiously awaiting where we end up going,” Dowling said. “We are going to get some individual work in next week and the week after we are going to get back into playing mode.”