Trailing Arkansas, ranked No. 8 by GolfWeek, by seven shots heading into the final round of the Lady Puerto Rico Classic Tuesday, No. 4 Georgia had its work cut out for it if it wanted to capture the team title.
And the Bulldogs responded in a big way. With Harang Lee, a junior from Spain, leading the way with a 3-under 69 over the Greg Norman-designed River Course at Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Georgia put up a 290 team score to finish at 3-over 867, three shots better than the Razorbacks, who had a 300 for the day for a 6-over 870 total.
Still, it was a pretty impressive coming-out party for Arkansas’ Maria Fassi, a freshman from Mexico. With countrywoman Gabriela Lopez leaving the Arkansas program after making it through LPGA qualifying in December, the Razorbacks needed a boost and in Fassi, who graduated high school in December, it looks like they have it.
Fassi fired a 3-under 69 Tuesday to hold off a stubborn Gabby Barker, the Texas Tech sophomore from Caldwell, Idaho, for the individual title by a shot. Fassi finished at 8-under 208, while Barker, who fired a solid 2-under 70 Tuesday, was a shot back at 7-under 209.
Fassi’s teammates struggled a little, though, but a trio of freshmen backed up Lee for Georgia.
Bailey Tardy of Peachtree Corners, Ga. had her worst round of the tournament, a 3-over 75, to finish alone in fifth place in the individual standings at 1-under 215. She was two shots back of Lee, who finished tied for third with TCU’s Kelly McGovern, a junior from The Woodlands, Texas, at 3-under 213.
Tardy, though, was outshone by fellow freshmen Jillian Hollis of Rocky River, Ohio and Rinko Mitsunaga of Roswell, Ga., both of whom carded 1-over 73s. Mitsunaga finished tied for 15th overall at 222 and Hollis finished tied for 42nd at 224. Georgia was able to throw out the final-round 76 posted by Manuela Carbajo Re, a senior from Argentina who was in the top 10 the first two days before ending up alone in 12th place at 4-over 220.
With Barker leading the way, 26th-ranked Texas Tech had a final-round 295 to keep its hold on third place in the team standings at 14-over 878. Iowa St., ranked 17th, had a final-round 299, the Cyclones breaking 300 in all three rounds, to finish fourth at 20-over 884.
Northwestern, ranked fifth, had a final-round 298 to finish in a tie for fifth in the team standings with seventh-ranked Kent St., which had a final-round 296, at 22-over 886. Northwestern, the top Big Ten finisher, and Kent St. also bettered 300 in all three rounds.
Kent St. was led by Wad Phaewchimplee, a junior from Thailand, who had a final-round 73 to finish sixth in the individual standings at even-par 216.
It was a disappointing tournament for host Purdue, ranked 20th, which posted a final-round 312 to finish 14th in the tough 16-team field at 918.
But there were a couple of bright spots for the Boilermakers. Linn Andersson, a sophomore from Sweden, had a final-round 72 to finish in a tie for 27th at 8-over 224. Covadonga SanJuan, a freshman from Spain, competed as an individual in her debut with Purdue and she matched Andersson’s final-round 72 and Andersson’s total, 8-over 224, to also finish among the players tied for 27th.
August Kim, a junior from St. Augustine, Fla., had an 81 Tuesday to finish in a tie for 49th at 229, Marta Martin, a sophomore from Spain, had a 78 and Anna Appert Lund, a senior from Sweden, had an 80, as they finished in a tie for 62nd at 232.
I doubt if I’ll be able to keep up as thoroughly with a lot of events the way I was with the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, but it was a nice diversion to look in on a golf tournament in Puerto Rico while we were hitting for the winter weather cycle (sub-zero wind chills, snow, freezing rain, rain with the occasional downpour and high winds and a little flooding) here in southeastern Pennsylvania the last three days.
But it was one of the first big events of the spring women’s college golf season and it was good opportunity to familiarize myself with a lot of the top teams and players, some of whom I’m quite certain will be showing up when the U.S. Women’s Amateur tees off in 165 days at Rolling Green Golf Club.
All I got was a heavyweight showdown between two powerhouses, Georgia and Arkansas, and pretty promising college debuts for the Razorbacks’ Fassi and Purdue’s SanJuan. And, what can I say, after following the Boilers throughout Aurora Kan's four-year run in West Lafayette, Ind., I'm curious to see how this group finishes out this season.