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UNC women's golf puts in strong showing at Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational

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UNC graduate student Kayla Smith reading her line on the 9th hole green of the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, at the Governors Club in Chapel Hill, NC. Carolina placed 3rd.

To end its time at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational, the UNC women's golf team gathered right outside the Governor's Club clubhouse in Chapel Hill. This end-of-match tradition is called the “shot of the day” huddle, where each player goes around and names a positive aspect of their day. 

In head coach Aimee Neff's third season at the helm of North Carolina, there are plenty of positives for the team to share.

“Each of them has gotten better every year they've been here," Neff said. "Which is something that is a testament [to the fact] that we're focusing on player development as well."

That growth was put on display last week at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational, in which UNC finished in third place on the team’s home ground. Kayla Smith, a graduate student out of Burlington, N.C., finished in a tie for sixth place at 3-under-par 213 and Megan Streicher, a sophomore out of Cape Town, South Africa, finished in ninth place at 2-under.

After a strong showing in this week’s competition, here are two takeaways from the event as the team looks to improve over the rest of the season:

The Tar Heels are reaching new heights

Smith tied a UNC record on day one as the second UNC player to ever shoot a 65 in a par-72 round. She joined former teammate Krista Junkkari, who completed the feat in 2021. 

“Once the first birdie rolled in, I just kept making them and kept making them,” Smith said. “Luckily, they were dropping. I was hitting them well and hitting my targets — hitting them pretty close.” 

Smith was not the only one performing at a high level in the invitational. After digging herself a "pretty big hole" on day one, Streicher bounced back the next day. The sophomore reached a personal best of 6-under in the third round. The event marked the second ninth-place finish of her career — the highest result she's achieved in college.  

Streicher said that playing at home aided her, as the team knew the course "pretty well."

"So we just [stuck] to what we're used to and [had] fun," Streicher said.

North Carolina is looking to the future

Neff said the records and top-10 finishes from Smith and Streicher show the depth of the team. 

She added that hosting an event like the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational allows UNC's entire roster to compete. The Tar Heels took full advantage of this and put together a strong finish as a team, with sophomore Inez Ng, first-year Reagan Southerland and senior Crista Izuzquiza finishing at 19th, 55th and 64th, respectively. 

“I think there's just a great opportunity, too, when you get to have everyone playing competition,” Neff said. “That's the best judge of where people are at.”

Neff will use this opportunity as a launchpad, with Smith adding that the invitational helps the team "prepare for the spring and come out running.”

Next on the horizon for North Carolina is a trip to Scotland for the inaugural St. Andrews Links Collegiate. However, Streicher and Ng will be absent as they are slated to participate in the World Amateur Team Championships on behalf of South Africa and Singapore, respectively. Without these two reliable figures for North Carolina, Neff will look to the depth of the rest of the team to help the Tar Heels finish strong. 

“I think more than anything we're continuing to get better every year,” Neff said. “This is going to be a program that contends for ACC and national championships.”

@aplancaster_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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