Alabama holds off UCLA to win ANNIKA Intercollegiate

Taylor Britton/ANNIKA Foundation

Alabama holds off UCLA to win ANNIKA Intercollegiate

College

Alabama holds off UCLA to win ANNIKA Intercollegiate

LAKE ELMO, Minn. – The night before Wednesday’s final round of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M, many coaches and players were unsure of how many more holes they were going to get in. Wednesday’s forecast called for rain showers throughout the day and Royal Golf Club had already been soaked by heavy precipitation the previous two days.

Alabama, at 17 under through 36 holes, entered the final round in second, trailing Duke by two shots. If rain delayed play for more than an hour on Wednesday, the final round would have been scrapped, no matter how many holes teams got in, and the Blue Devils would open the season with a win.

But somehow, aside from an hour downpour just before lunch, the rain held off and the Crimson Tide rallied with an 11-under 277 to notch a two-shot victory over UCLA.

“We had no chance to win if we didn’t play,” Alabama head coach Mic Potter said. “I couldn’t believe when that cloud burst kind of went through and then it cleared up and ended up being pretty nice the rest of the day. It wasn’t predicted to be that way, but we’ll take it.”

Four teams held at least a share of the lead on Wednesday. Duke led early before falling to fifth after a 5-over final round. USC, led by freshman Malia Nam’s second-place finish, shot 6 under to climb to third at 21 under.

But by the final few holes, there were just two teams with a chance to win: Alabama and UCLA, which traded the lead on several occasions on the back nine before the Tide finished two clear at 28 under.

The Bruins got a big boost from sophomore Patty Tavatanakit, who made seven straight birdies beginning at No. 9, closed with an eagle at the par-5 18th, shot 8-under 28 on the back nine and set a new course record of 9-under 63.

Even Tavatanakit, last year’s ANNIKA runnerup, couldn’t believe it.

“Wow, that was 28?” Tavatanakit said.

Tavatanakit was nearly perfect with her iron game on Wednesday. She had been working on her takeaway and aiming. In the final round, everything clicked. Her longest putt during that seven-birdie streak was 18 feet. Most were inside of 6 or 7 feet.

“Coming into the week I did not expect to win,” Tavatanakit said. “Even yesterday, I was struggling, but I shot 4 under because I was patient and made every up-and-down. I didn’t think that we were going to play today so my mindset was just go and play and not worry about when they are going to pull us off the course.

“I was hoping that good things would happen and they did.”

Despite Tavatanakit’s scorching finish, UCLA as a team couldn’t take advantage of the back-to-back closing par-5s. Clare Legaspi made eagle on No. 18, but just one other birdie was made on the two holes in the final round, and that was a birdie by Lilia Vu on the 17th hole.

Alabama, the defending NCAA runners-up to Arizona, weren’t much better on those finishing holes, but they were better, combing to make two eagles on the 17th and two birdies on the 18th. Lauren Stephenson bogeyed No 17, but she still birdied three of her final four holes.

Junior Jiwon Jeon, a transfer from Daytona State College, led the way for the Crimson Tide, tying for sixth at 7 under after shooting 65-67 in the final two rounds. Junior Kenzie Wright, a transfer from SMU, shot 78 on Wednesday, but was still able to notch a T-13 finish.

Stephenson and Kristen Gillman added top-20s. Gillman shot a closing 69 despite a triple bogey in the rain on the par-4 fifth hole. Potter said that was a great example of how his team fought this week.

“They never got shaken,” Potter said. “You’re soaking wet, it’s raining; it would’ve been very easy to just pack it in, but they never did. We always have a chance if they keep that mindset.”

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