ATHENS, Ga. – The No. 24 University of Florida women’s golf team mounted a furious charge in the final round of the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, matching a tournament course record for a round of 282 (-5) along with Arkansas and Duke in 2000 by the traditional “five count four” format, which equated to a 277 (-11) in the “best ball” format that was being employed. After beginning the day in 12th, the Gators shot a staggering 11-under on the back nine to launch themselves into sole possession of second place, three strokes behind Alabama midway through and ultimately finished in fifth place, collectively posting an 870 (+6) in the 23-team field that featured 13 Top-25 teams, according to the Golf World/NGCA Coaches’ Poll as of March 30.
“We played really well today,” Florida head coach Jan Dowling said. “We started with four pars and a bogey and then went on a birdie barrage. We made 11 birdies on our front nine and it was really cool to see. Putts started to drop for us and it became contagious. They played really good golf and it was fun to watch.
“The cool thing is that this was a legitimate golf course against legitimate teams and we played great today. We had the low round of the day and (if the tournament was) using traditional scoring, we won the tournament.”
Sophomore Isabelle Lendl (Goshen, Conn.) was Florida’s top finisher at the conclusion of the event, totaling a 54-hole score of 218 (+2) that left her in fifth place overall. She capped off an impressive tournament with a 71 (-1) in which she was bogey-free the entirety of the round. The fifth-place finish was her second top-10 of the season and her highest finish of the season.
“I just putted really, really well this weekend,” Lendl stated. “I’ve been doing speed drills for the last three weeks because the greens here are so undulated. I kept the ball below the hole and gave myself good looks to get up-and-down.
“Today, I hit some good tee shots and hit 13 greens (in regulation). I kept the ball in play and when I missed, it was in the right spot. I’m really pleased with my ball-striking because I made a swing change and it’s nice to see my swing hold up under pressure.”
“She had what was probably one of the better short game clinics I’ve seen as a coach this weekend,” Dowling added. “She didn’t have a three-putt all weekend and that’s impressive because of how difficult the green complexes are on this course.”
Sophomore Mia Piccio (Bacolod City, Phillipines) fired an impressive 69 (-3), highlighted by a seven-hole stretch from 12 through 18 where she made five birdies. The nation’s 66th-ranked player according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, tied for the third-lowest round of the day and launched herself 28 places higher on the leaderboard into a four-way tie for 11th as a result, completing her tournament with a 223 (+7). Piccio has placed 16th or higher in all four tournaments Florida has competed in this spring and has not posted made anything higher than a bogey in her last nine rounds.
“It was awesome,” Dowling said of Piccio’s performance Sunday. “She made birdie on 12, then made a long putt on 14, hit it to about eight feet on 15 and made it, hit it again to about eight or 10 feet on 16 and made it, then hit a wedge to about four or five feet and made that to go to five-under. She’s a great player and you kind of knew something like that was going to happen because she was getting progressively better each day and she was figuring it out.”
Senior Jessica Yadloczky (Casselberry, Fla.) matched her best round of the campaign with a 70 (-2) that moved her up 36 spots into a tie for 35th at tournament’s end with a total score of 227 (+11). After opening with a bogey on 10, she rebounded quickly with a birdie on the par-4 11th and added another at the par-4 15th to enter the turn at one-under. Following a bogey on No. 1, she played her final eight holes at two-under, sprinkling in birdies on No. 5 and No. 7 with six pars.
“The first day, she putted okay but didn’t hit it very well and the second day, she hit it pretty solid but didn’t make any putts,” Dowling said. “Today, they both came together very well.”
“This is what I expect of myself,” Yadloczky declared. “I was a bit more relaxed and we were having a good time together as a team. I stayed more patient than I had the first two days. I worked on my putting and I tried to stay confident. Our practices have become a little more focused and our team chemistry is spot-on right now and that is paying off in tournaments.”
Junior Andrea Watts (Bradenton, Fla.) continued her solid play following yesterday’s 74, bettering that with a 73 (+1) Sunday that jumped her 19 places in the standings. Watts birdied 12 and 13 to get to two-under and after back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15, birdied again on the par-3 16th. A bogey on No. 1 dropped her back to even and her only double bogey in her last 36 holes at No. 4 put her at two-over but she rallied with a birdie on No. 5 before shooting par the remaining four holes to complete her round. She finished with a cumulative score of 232 (+16).
Junior Evan Jensen (Belleair, Fla.) began her day with a run of six pars before bogeying 16. She played the next 10 holes at two-over until a double bogey on her final hole put her at 77 (+5) for the round and 231 (+15) for the tournament.
Alabama won the tournament with a total score of 860 (-4), eight strokes ahead of nearest challengers Duke and Purdue.
“Obviously this is a huge confidence boost for us,” Dowling said. “Our spring is about working to build ourselves up to the postseason.”
Florida’s next competition will be the SEC Championship, located in Auburn, Ala. at the Auburn University Club from April 15-17.