The Florida Gators will head into the spring portion of the women’s college golf scene ranked No. 8 in Division I by Golfstat.
If you want to know why, look no further than last week’s South Atlantic Amateur Golf Championship, known simply as The Sally in women’s amateur golf circles. The Gators turned the venerable event, played at the Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla., into something of a University of Florida travel-squad qualifier.
Kelly Grassel, a Florida senior from Chesterton, Ind., captured the title, firing a final round of 3-under 69 Saturday at Oceanside for an 8-under 280 total. That was one shot better than fellow Florida senior Maria Torres of Puerto Rico, who matched Grassel’s final-round 69 to finish a shot back at 7-under 281.
And who did Grassel and Torres have to overtake with their strong final-round finishes? That would be teammate Sam Wagner, a sophomore from Windermere, Fla. Wagner took a one-shot lead into the final round after posting a 54-hole total of 6-under 210 that included a sparkling 5-under 67 in the second round.
Wagner carded a final round of 1-over 73 to finish in a three-way tie for third at 5-under 283. Wagner has been around forever, qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at age 11. Brynn Walker, then a junior at Radnor, had the misfortune of running into Wagner in the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior, falling to Wagner, by then a veteran junior campaigner, 7 and 5.
Central Florida’s Ashley Holder, a senior from Orlando, Fla., got a piece of third place along with Wagner with a blazing 6-under 66 in the final round.
The third member of that trio tied for third at 5-under 283 falls into the pre-teen phenom class that Wagner once belonged in. That would be Alexa Pano, who won the American Junior Golf Association’s PDQ / Philadelphia Runner Junior at the Saucon Valley Country Club’s Weyhill Course late last summer by five shots. The Lake Worth, Fla. resident was 11 days removed from her 12th birthday when she shot 5-under for 54 holes at Saucon Valley.
Pano matched par in the final round with a 72 to finish in the tie for third at The Sally. She fired an impressive 3-under 69 in the third round at Oceanside.
A week earlier the second leg of the Orange Blossom Tour, the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational, was contested at Harder Hall Country Club in Sebring, Fla.
Texas Christian’s Emma Martin, a junior from Odessa, Fla., was an impressive five-shot winner of the Harder Hall with a 72-hole total of 2-under 286. Martin had a final round of 2-over 74. She took control of the tournament with a 3-under 69 in the third round.
A teen phenom from England, 14-year-old Annabell Fuller, was the runnerup with a 3-over 291 total. She had a 1-over 73 in the final round.
Ohio State’s Jessica Porvasnik, a senior from Hinckley, Ohio who reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club last summer, finished eighth at 10-over 298. Porvasnik, who was defending her 2016 Harder Hall victory, was in the hunt for a repeat, but fell back with an 80 in the final round.
Penn State sophomore Lauren Waller, who lost in a playoff to Radnor’s Walker in the 2014 PIAA Class AAA Tournament as a senior at Canon-McMillan, finished in a tie for 10th at 302. Meghan Stasi, the four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and eight-time Philadelphia Women’s Amateur champion, finished tied for 19th at 307. Stasi, a South Jersey native, lives in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. area.
The chairwoman of the Harder Hall is western Pennsylvania’s Carol Semple Thompson, who was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008. She’s been Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion, I’m pretty sure 22 times. It might be more, but it’s a lot regardless. Among her many amateur victories are three straight Harder Hall wins from 1990 to 1992.
The Orange Blossom Tour opened the week before Christmas with Yujeong Son of South Korea taking the title in the Women’s Dixie Amateur at the Woodlands Country Club in Tamarac, Fla. Son reached the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. last summer before falling to eventual champion and fellow South Korean Eun Jeong Seong.
While Son is a native South Korean, she lives in Norman, Okla. and has won the Oklahoma Women’s Amateur Championship the last three years running.
The Orange Blossom Tour continues this week with the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Championship at Coral Ridge Country Club.
The Orange Blossom Tour concludes with the Women’s International Four-Ball Championship Feb. 14 and 15 at The Wanderers Club in Wellington, Fla.