Late birdies propel USC to spring-opening win at Northrop Grumman

Courtesy of USC Athletics

Late birdies propel USC to spring-opening win at Northrop Grumman

Women

Late birdies propel USC to spring-opening win at Northrop Grumman

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The Trojans can now check off victories at their fall and spring openers.

USC began Tuesday’s final round of the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge two shots back and was in a dogfight near the end, but ultimately some late birdies gave the Trojans a one-shot victory.

Only one Trojans player was under par for the final round, but on a difficult Tuesday at Palos Verdes (Calif.) GC, the team did enough. USC closed with a 5-over 289 for a three-day total of 4 over.

The No. 4 Trojans outlasted No. 14 Arizona State by that one shot. Duke, ranked 16th, placed third at 7 over while No. 8 Florida, the 36-hole leader, finished solo fourth at 8 over after a finishing 11-over 295.

This is the Trojans’ second victory of the 2016-17 season, as the team also captured the season-opening ANNIKA Intercollegiate by two shots thanks to an incredible comeback.

“The girls persevered today,” said Andrea Gaston, USC’s head coach. “They stayed in the game. Each day we had a rough start, but it’s not always how you start, it’s how you finish. I’m really proud of them. This is a hard course and you have to stay patient and present.”

Victoria Morgan led the way for the Trojans, as the senior finished the week even par for a tie for seventh. All five USC starters finished in the top 25, in fact. But it was the late surge that turned this from a close defeat to a victory.

Four Trojans posted crucial birdies in their final holes. Morgan had one on her penultimate hole and Gabriella Then (T-17, 5 over) had one on her 16th of the day. Tiffany Chan (T-17, 5 over) and Muni He (T-24, 6 over) both birdied their final hole. He, a freshman who enrolled a semester early this spring, was playing in her first college event and rebounded from an opening 78 with rounds of 71 and 70.

The Sun Devils also boasted a balanced roster in a near-win. Linnea Strom (T-11, 1 over), Monica Vaughn (13th, 2 over), Olivia Mehaffey (T-14, 3 over) and Sophia Zeeb (T-17, 5 over) led that charge.

The individual race saw co-medalists, as Duke’s Leona Maguire, Florida’s Taylor Tomlinson and UNLV’s Mackenzie Raim all finished in a tie for first at 4 under. The Blue Devils and Gators both boasted solid performances from their No. 2 and 3 finishers as well but saw drop off in the No. 4 and 5 spots. The Rebels finished the tournament sixth at 21 over.

The top four finishers all jumped up in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, which updated Wednesday. The winning Trojans moved from No. 4 to No. 3, Arizona State rocketed from No. 14 to No. 4, Duke went from No. 16 to No. 13 and Florida saw a rise from No. 8 to No. 6.

The Trojans return to competition at the Bruin Wave Invitational, to be played at San Luis Obispo (Calif.) C.C. from Feb. 27-28.

– Information from USC Athletics was used in this report

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