Maria Fassi leads Arkansas to ANNIKA Intercollegiate title

Arkansas Athletics Communications

Maria Fassi leads Arkansas to ANNIKA Intercollegiate title

Women

Maria Fassi leads Arkansas to ANNIKA Intercollegiate title

Final scores

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – It’s a long time until spring’s championship season, but Arkansas is off to a perfect start, sweeping the team and individual titles in their first two outings.

The latest dominating performance came at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M. The Razorbacks began their season with an NCAA record-tying effort at the Mason Rudolph Championship.

Buoyed by the strength of Baylor transfer Dylan Kim and powerful Mexican Maria Fassi, Arkansas cruised to a 12-shot victory over UCLA at Olympic Hills Golf Club in suburban Minneapolis. The Razorbacks closed with a 10-under 278, the lowest final-round score by seven shots. Arkansas closed the three-day event at 16-under 848, winning the ANNIKA after finishing second and third at the previous two stagings at Reunion Resort in Orlando.

For the second consecutive year, Fassi collected the individual title at the ANNIKA, closing with a 6-under 66 for a 10-under 206 to win by five shots over UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit. Arkansas women’s coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said Fassi, a junior, is similar in fiery competitiveness to current LPGA player and fellow Mexican Gaby Lopez.

“Maria just has an extra gear of length that’s just a competitive advantage for her, I think,” Estes-Taylor said. “She’s learning how to use it, and use it wisely I think.”

This was the first time since Estes-Taylor took over the program 11 years ago that top-ranked Arkansas opened its season with two victories. Estes-Taylor said anyone in her starting five can win any given week. At the Mason Rudolph, where the Razorbacks finished 41 under, three of Arkansas’ players were in contention.

Even those players left back in Fayetteville, Ark., aren’t far off, as there was a four-way playoff for the fifth spot. Arkansas brought an experienced lineup of four juniors and a senior to the ANNIKA.

“We have a lot of depth this year, and I think it just really keeps them on point,” Estes-Taylor said. “They know every day they have to bring their ‘A’ game, even at practice.”

The goal, Estes-Taylor said, is to convince her team to work together rather than carry an “I’m going to beat you mentality.”

At the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, Fassi and Kim shared the lead early on the back nine of the final round before Fassi pulled away with a closing 32. The day had a similar feel to her finish at the Mason Rudolph, where Fassi posted a final-round 64 one day after her beloved grandfather, Juan, died in Argentina.

She’s a fighter, and at the ANNIKA, Fassi overcame some miserable Midwestern fall weather to take her fifth career title. Both Kim and Razorback junior Alana Uriell closed with 71s to finish tied for third at 4 under.

No doubt there’s added motivation for the Razorbacks this season, as they failed to advance to the NCAA finals last spring.

“We all made a promise to ourselves that we were never going to feel that way again,” Fassi said. “We took all of that anger and channeled it in a good way.”

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