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Thursday June 1st

UNC women's golf finishes third at the Texas A&M 'Mo'Morial event

<p>UNC junior Kayla Smith obtained her first career top-10 finish at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational. <br>
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications.&nbsp;</p>
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UNC junior Kayla Smith obtained her first career top-10 finish at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational.
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications. 

The UNC women’s golf team finished third out of 13 teams at the Texas A&M "'Mo'Morial" event after tying the lowest team score of the tournament Wednesday afternoon. 

What happened?

After just nine holes on Tuesday morning, the Tar Heels found themselves in a terrible position. They had struggled through the first few holes and were nearly sitting in last place after putting massive numbers on the board. Junior Crista Izuzquiza had carded two double bogies in her first five holes and first-year Vilde Nystrøm recorded two double bogies and a triple bogey in her first 10 holes. 

Following this tough start to the three-round event, it was the Tar Heels' mental toughness and resilience that pushed them through to mitigate the early first-round mistakes. 

Despite their rocky starts, Nystrøm finished her final eight holes in one under par and Izuzquiza did not record another double bogey the rest of the tournament. Izuzquiza shot a final round 69 to rise 28 spots in the individual standings on Wednesday, a key to the team’s final round success. 

During the second round on Tuesday, UNC’s team score improved by a whopping 20 strokes, tying Texas for the low round of the day. This momentum carried into round three on Wednesday when the team shot the low round of the day at 280, beating out the home team Texas A&M by eight strokes on that round.

UNC finished the tournament in third place at a score of four under par. The Tar Heels scored equal to or better than the winning team Texas A&M in the final two rounds, but couldn’t quite overcome early first-round errors. 

Who stood out? 

Two senior players, Kayla Smith and Krista Junkkari finished in the top five at the tournament, with Smith taking low medalist honors. Smith’s final round score of four under 68 brought her up five places in the standings  — overtaking players from Florida and Texas A&M to bring her three-day total to nine-under par 207. 

Smith and Junkkari’s pair of 68s in the final round propelled the team to its third-place finish and a low round of the event. Both players remained steady and consistent throughout the event with neither posting a round above a one-over 73. 

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels were nine under through ten to twelve holes early in the final round on Wednesday. Despite this strong play, the team struggled to close the gap with eventual winner Texas A&M due to A&M outperforming them by 16 strokes in round one. 

The team’s strong finish was decided by their unmatched play in the second and third rounds, but with slightly better performances in the first round, they could have matched or overcome a strong Texas A&M home team.

Why does it matter?

Though this event was just the second of the season for UNC, the Tar Heels have a busy schedule looming for the month of October. The team will participate in 3 multi-day events including the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational, which they will host in Chapel Hill.

After posting scores in the mid 290s and 280s last week at the Cougar Classic and finishing 16th out of 18 less competitive teams, the Tar Heels bounced back. Early successful tournaments and rounds like these will be crucial in building team morale and confidence going into the next busy 4 weeks of the fall season.  

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel to Springfield, N.J. the second week of October to compete at the Baltusrol Golf Course.

@dthsports |

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