To begin the tournament, UNC was led by a hot start from first-year Jennifer Zhou in her inaugural postseason round. She opened up her day shooting a 2-under-par 70 to position herself near the top of the leaderboard. Her teammate, junior Brynn Walker, followed suit and posted the same score in her first round of the day.
Thursday’s second round of play saw the momentum taper off for the Tar Heels near the top of the leaderboard. Zhou continued her steady style of play, walking away with a 1-over-par 73 to place her in sixth place overall with a total score of 1-under-par going into Saturday's final round.
Walker seemed poised to climb her way into the top 10 following her solid first round, but a 7-over-par 79 knocked her down to a tie for 28th.
The remainder of Jan Mann’s squad was rounded out by senior Kelly Whaley, who tied for 39th, junior Mariana Ocano, who tied for 47th, and sophomore Ava Bergner, who tied for 49th.
As a unit, the Tar Heels finished the first day of competition in seventh place overall with a score of 20-over-par.
Entering the final day of competition with a deficit in the team rankings, the third round was more focused on individual performances.
Zhou built upon her impressive performance on Thursday, posting a 2-over-par 74 to finish the tournament tied for eighth place with a total score of 1-over-par.
UNC’s biggest jump on Saturday’s leaderboard came from a player who saw the day’s match as anything but routine. For Whaley, a senior, her final round of the tournament was also the final round of her collegiate career. She made the most of it — shooting a 2-over-par 74 — which was her lowest score all week.
Strong showings from Whaley and Zhou were not enough to buoy the Tar Heels on Saturday. Walker and Bergner both shot 7-over-par, while Ocano ended the tournament with a 9-over-par 81.
The final result for UNC was a shared ninth-place finish with N.C. State, and marked the end of the season for the Tar Heel squad.
Who stood out?
With fellow first-year Nicole Lu not playing in the tournament, Zhou was UNC’s most inexperienced golfer going into the final event of the season. However, it was her consistent play that carried her team all week. Over the course of three rounds, Zhou notched 10 birdies and 33 pars on her way to an eighth-place finish. She found the most success at the par 5’s, finishing 6-under-par on the long holes for the tournament
Why does it matter?
The play of young golfers like Zhou provides hope for the women’s team looking forward.
Whaley will certainly be missed by Mann and staff, but all is not lost for UNC. The remainder of the 2018-2019 team is eligible to return next season, which will only make the Tar Heels more experienced and competitive in the years to come.
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