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Thursday January 20th

UNC's women's golf team finishes ninth in Arkansas' Blessings Collegiate Invitational

<p>Krista Junkkari prepares to put during the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational at Finley Golf Course on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Photo Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications</p>
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Krista Junkkari prepares to put during the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational at Finley Golf Course on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Photo Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

Youth and inexperience shined through for the North Carolina women’s golf team, which finished ninth out of ten at the Blessings Collegiate Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Wednesday. The Tar Heels’ score of a 52-over 916 came in one spot ahead of the Tennessee Volunteers, who shot a 64-over 928.

What happened?

Playing against top-25 competition, including No. 16 Texas Tech, No. 17 UCLA, No. 18 Arizona and No. 2 Arkansas on its home course, UNC had its hands full starting at hole one.

The Tar Heels got off to a rough start on opening day, shooting a 24-over 312 and putting themselves 17 shots off the lead. First-year Stephany Kim led the way with a five-over 77, followed by juniors Kayla Smith and Krista Junkkari shooting 6-over.

North Carolina played far and away its best round of golf on day two, shooting a 7-over 288 and tying for fifth on the day. Sophomore Crista Izuzquiza turned in an even-par 72, the team’s best individual daily score of the tournament, to highlight the Tar Heels’ excellent scoresheet. Smith’s 73, Kim’s 74 and Junkkari’s 76 also helped the team gain ground on the rest of the field.  

UNC couldn’t continue its momentum from Tuesday into the final round, though, as the Tar Heels shot a 21-over 309 and finished in ninth on the day. Smith shot a 73 and Junkkari scored a 74 for UNC.

North Carolina took ninth overall after the three-day tournament with its score of 52-over 916.

Who stood out? 

Smith, a Burlington native, tallied the Tar Heels’ lowest individual score by four shots with an 8-over 216. She tied for 20th overall, which was her fourth career finish inside the top 20.

Close behind was Junkkari, who shot 12-over 228, and Kim with a 14-over 230. 

When was it decided?

At the end of day one, Arkansas showed it was the best team in the field. North Carolina jockeyed with Illinois, Houston and Tennessee all tournament at the bottom of the scoresheet, and the Tar Heels took a commanding 11-shot lead over the Volunteers going into the third round. UNC ended with a 12-shot victory over Tennessee.

Both Houston and Illinois scored seven shots lower than North Carolina on day one, and although the Tar Heels’ 295 on day two brought them back a tad,  a 310 in the final round kept them from earning seventh or eighth.  

Why does it matter?

A combination of young players and overall inexperience shows during early season events like this, but the collective group has the potential to score better as the year goes on.

Arkansas showed why it’s No. 2 in the country, and playing such strong competition this early in the season shows head coach Aimee Neff and the Tar Heels how much room they have to grow throughout the rest of this season. They came into the tournament ranked No. 22, and while they fell out of the top-25 with their result in Arkansas, there’s still plenty of potential for these players to develop as they move through future tournaments.

When do they play next?

The UNC women’s golf team next plays from Oct. 15-17, when it hosts the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational at Finley Golf Course. The field includes golfers from UNC, Duke, Mississippi State and Kentucky, among others.

@DTHSports |

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