Here is a recap of the 2017 American Championship at Hammock Beach Resort’s Conservatory Course in Palm Coast, Fla., which concluded Tuesday.
TEAM CHAMPION: UCF (4-under 860). A final-round rally earned UCF the title. The Knights captured their second American Athletic Conference crown in three years, firing a final-round 287 to go from one behind to a three-shot victory. This is actually UCF’s first win of the season, but don’t be fooled: The Knights played the 26th-toughest schedule in the nation and entered the tournament No. 24 in the country even without any wins. Now they have one, with the difference clearly coming on the final nine. Houston, the 36-hole leader, played the final nine in 7 over among its counting scorers while UCF posted even par. The Knights were already going to earn an NCAA Regional bid, but they can thank this strong finish for sealing an automatic one and a conference title.
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION: Ashley Holder, UCF (7-under 209). The senior finished in the top three of this tournament all four seasons, but she goes out finally getting that individual conference win. Holder started the final round four back of Houston’s Leonie Harm, but the Cougars sophomore didn’t make a single birdie Tuesday in a closing 4-over 76. Holder made five birdie in a 3-under 69, and took the lead for good with a birdie at 13 that moved her from one behind to one ahead of Harm, who bogeyed. SMU’s Brigitte Dunne made a late charge with birdies at 16 and 17 but came up one short for second place. Harm finished third at 4 under. This win marks Holder’s sixth top-11 finish of 2016-17. Holder has three wins in her UCF career.
QUOTABLE: “It just takes a lot of guts to win a conference championship and that’s what our girls did today. They just pulled it out.” – UCF head coach Emily Marron, to UCF Athletics
CHIP SHOTS: The defending champion Cougars overall posted a closing 7-over 295 – ranking them fifth among the nine-team field over the last 18 – to fall to third at 3 over. SMU shot the day’s best round, a 5-under 283, to finish second at 1 under. … UCF had two top-10 finishers aside from Holder: Maria Balcazar (T-4, 3 under) and Kaeli Jones (seventh, even par). … At Nos. 42 and 45 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, respectively, SMU and Houston are likely to earn NCAA Regional at-large bids. East Carolina, entering the tournament No. 54 by Golfweek and No. 57 by Golfstat, remains squarely on the regional bubble after finishing fourth. Per Golfweek‘s Lance Ringler, the magic number for regionals heading into conference championships was 56. The Pirates will certainly be sweating it out come selection day.