In their first tournament of the 2021 season, the North Carolina women’s golf team tied for fifth in the Cougar Classic hosted by the College of Charleston at Yeamans Hall Golf Club.
The Tar Heels – led by first-year head coach Aimee Neff – put themselves in the UNC women’s golf record books with their performances in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday and Tuesday. In three rounds of play, the Tar Heels finished with 861 final strokes which is the team’s eighth-best three-round total in program history. The group took 289 total strokes in the first round and 284 in the second, which put them at sixth-place and three-under-par going into the final day.
Junior Krista Junkkari, whose second-place finish was the highest of any Tar Heel, set a school record in the first round, shooting a 65 with 13 birdies. The Elimäki, Finland native didn’t have a single bogey on her scorecard until the 30th hole of the day. Sophomore Natalia Aseguinolaza also shot her collegiate-best of 68 in the second round, finishing with five birdies and a sole bogey.
UNC was able to finish with an even-par 288 Tuesday afternoon in the final round, which vaulted them to fifth-place. The Tar Heels fifth-place finish was the highest out of four ACC teams that competed in the tournament – Clemson, Miami, and NC State.
Who stood out?
Junkkari, who finished at 12 under-par for the tournament, had the best performance of her collegiate career which helped lead the Tar Heels to their fifth-place finish. Junkkari’s second-place finish was the best of any UNC women’s golfer in over three years and she also tied two Tar Heel records for total strokes and score to par. The Elimäki, Finland native finished with 15 birdies and three bogeys for the tournament.
Junior Kayla Smith finished the second-highest for the Tar Heels with 214 strokes over 54 holes which was good enough for 15th. Smith shot a 67 in the final round Tuesday which was her lowest collegiate score and she was able to secure her first top-20 finish in two seasons.
When was it decided?
After sitting at sixth-place following two rounds of play, the team’s strong finish Tuesday helped vault them one spot in the final leaderboard, where they placed behind Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, and Georgia.
Why does it matter?
The fifth-place finish for the Tar Heels is a big deal for a young team that lacks some of the collegiate tournament experience that some of their competition has. UNC went into the weekend with a lineup that only had 28 collegiate tournament appearances and they were able to leave Charleston with the top finish of any team in their conference along with some career-best finishes among their group. This stellar performance will serve as a confidence booster going forward as the Tar Heels ramp up their season in early October.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back in action on Oct. 4, where they will be competing in the Blessings College Invitational at Blessings Golf Club in Johnson, Arkansas. The Arkansas Razorbacks will play host to the tournament.
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