'Hungry' Auburn fills up at UCF Challenge
UCF Challenge at Red Tail (Rd. 2)
View images from Day 2 of the UCF Challenge at Red Tail in Sorrento, Fla. Auburn and Baylor are tied going into the final round.
SORRENTO, Fla. – College golf coaches rarely make bold predictions. Kim Evans, a veteran coach of 25 years, dodged the “How good can you be?” question as if it were kryptonite. Like so many of her peers, she prefers to stay in the present, looking no further than the next event. For the record, at least.
“I know that’s boring,” Evans said, moments after her Auburn Tigers held off Baylor on Feb. 14 for a two-stroke victory in the UCF Challenge at RedTail Golf Club.
It's hard to blame Evans, though for once it would be fun to hear a coach say something like, We’re gunning for UCLA. They’re overrated, especially now that Stephanie Kono is gone.
What Evans did say is that her team is legit. And after the Tigers won the SEC Championship and then failed to advance to the NCAA Championship last season, they have much to prove.
“This team is hungry,” Evans said. “I think we left a lot out there last year.”
Freshman Victoria Trapani won her first college title on the strength of an opening 4-under 68 on the coldest day this winter in central Florida. The south Florida native then held steady in a whipping wind on the final day to shoot 73 and finish one stroke ahead of Tulane teammates Ashley McKenney and Gemma Dryburgh.
Auburn, No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, entered the final round tied with No. 24 Baylor. The Tigers took a sizable lead early on and held it until the nerves kicked in on the back nine, where the Bears cut the difference to one stroke.
“We folded down the line the last four or five holes, so we’ve got a lot to work on,” Evans said. “We’re young.”
Trapani is the third Tigers player to win this season, after Carlie Yadloczky and Marta Sanz won in the fall. Trapani also tied for second at The Landfall Tradition. Evans said the first time she saw Trapani walk across a green at a junior tournament, she thought Trapani carried herself like a champion.
Evans also gave credit to sophomore Diana Fernandez for her breakthrough second round, a 5-under 67, the low round of the tournament.
Jay Goble, in his first year as coach at Baylor, inherited a gutsy team. An injured Chelsey Cothran hadn’t played a round of golf in 10 days when she showed up to this rural area north of Orlando. Goble told the senior to treat Day 1 like a practice round. She opened with a 77 and followed with a 68-70 to tie teammate Hayley Davis and Auburn's Fernandez for fourth place at 1-under 215. Cothran's final round included seven birdies and a back-nine 32.
“We played with Auburn yesterday, and I know that they’re the No. 3 team in the country and they’re awesome,” Goble said, “but I feel like we hung really well with them. I think our games match up pretty close.”
Baylor won twice in the fall – Dick Maguire Invitational and Price’s NMSU Invitational – and finished second at the Alamo Invitational. The Bears will face stronger competition this spring.
As for Auburn, the Tigers have yet to finish outside the top 3 in five events.
• It was a disappointing tournament for Texas, which placed ninth. The 12th-ranked Longhorns finished behind seven schools ranked below them.
• Tulane, at No. 49, posted the day’s low round, a 2-over 290, to finish third.