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Friday August 12th

UNC's women’s golf team finishes sixth in ACC Championships, best finish since 2017

<p>DTH File. Stephany Kim, a first-year member of the UNC women's golf team, guides the ball on day three of the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational on Oct. 17, 2021. UNC finished sixth in the ACC Championship.</p>
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DTH File. Stephany Kim, a first-year member of the UNC women's golf team, guides the ball on day three of the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational on Oct. 17, 2021. UNC finished sixth in the ACC Championship.

The North Carolina women’s golf team placed sixth out of 12 teams competing in the ACC championships held in Pawley’s Island, SC this weekend.

What happened?

The Tar Heels’ first-round score of 294 was their strongest of the three rounds. Junior Krista Junkkari led the team in that round with an impressive score of 69 (-3) which left her in a tie for first after 18 holes. 

Junior Kayla Smith, sophomore Natalia Aseguinolaza and sophomore Crista Izuzquiza all shot scores in the mid to low 70s, which counted towards the team’s total in the first round.

Junkkari’s strong play continued into the second round, as she finished 36 holes with a two-round total of five-under 139. The remaining four Tar Heels found themselves with scores in the mid to upper 70s giving the team a day two total of 298 and leaving them in ninth place with a 16-over par total for the first two rounds.

On day three, it was Smith and Aseguinolaza that stepped up for UNC after Junkkari found herself in some tough positions. Junkkari carded an eight-over score of 80 on Friday after making a triple bogey, two doubles, and a bogey without a single birdie on her card. Smith and Aseguinolaza remained consistent shooting 71 and 73 respectively.

Despite their day three total of 300 being their highest of the three rounds, the Tar Heels were able to gain some ground on other teams including N.C. State, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech among others to improve their standing to sixth out of 12 teams.

The top four teams, Wake Forest, Florida State, Duke and Virginia will all move on to compete in the final rounds of matchplay this Saturday and Sunday.

Who stood out? 

Junkkari, Smith and Aseguinolaza all completed stroke play finishing in the top-20 individually.

Smith’s 71 in the final round was the second-best round of the day, tied by Phoebe Brinker of Duke who finished first, and beaten only by Duke’s Erica Shepard who finished second.

Aseguinolaza’s finish was her best as a Tar Heel, she made four birdies in the final round and improved her positioning by nine spots to finish in a tie for 19th.

Despite Junkkari’s final round struggles, her tie 13th finish is a testament to her incredible play in the first two rounds. UNC’s finish would not have been possible without her overall performance.

When was it decided?

All but two of the competing teams had their highest total in the third round. This created an exciting final round as teams competed to qualify for match play.

Virginia found themselves in a tie for seventh after the second round but quickly moved up to fourth place, qualifying for match play, following their stellar third-round total of 290 which was the lowest of the day.

Wake Forest and Florida State battled for first place throughout the first two rounds, but Wake Forest was able to pull away beating Florida State by five shots in the final round.

UNC also took advantage of the third round, moving up to sixth out of 12 despite being in ninth after the second round concluded.

Why does it matter?

Following long-time head coach Jan Mann’s retirement last spring, this is Aimee Neff’s first season as head coach. The sixth place finish was the team’s best since 2017. Additionally, the future looks bright for the Tar Heels as they will return all five starters next season.

When do they play next?

After all NCAA conference play wraps up, North Carolina will await news of its potential regional qualification.

There are six separate regional sites this year with the tournaments being held from May 9-11. Each site will feature 12 teams and six individual qualifiers. The top four teams and top two individuals not on an advancing team will qualify for the NCAA championships on May 20-25.

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