Ole Miss cruises in wire-to-wire fashion at Golfweek Conference Challenge

Lance Ringler/Golfweek

Ole Miss cruises in wire-to-wire fashion at Golfweek Conference Challenge

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Ole Miss cruises in wire-to-wire fashion at Golfweek Conference Challenge

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Ole Miss coach Kory Henkes arrived at her home in Oxford, Miss., around 2 a.m. Thursday morning. There’s no quick way back from the mountaintop in Vail, Colorado. But hopefully the high of winning lingered on as several of her players made their way to 8 a.m. classes and make-up labs.

Such is the glorious grind of college golf.

Ole Miss dominated the Golfweek Conference Challenge at Red Sky Golf Club, winning in wire-to-wire fashion by eight strokes over Pepperdine.

The best part, said Henkes, was that her team was kind of ticked off they didn’t break par the last day, turning in an even-par performance for a 15-under 849 total. This from a program that shot three consecutive 303s at the same event in 2015 when Henkes took over as head coach.

SCORES: Golfweek Conference Challenge
MORE SCORES: Golfstat.golfweek.com

After winning the SEC Championship last spring for the first time in school history in dramatic fashion, and then qualifying for the NCAA Championship for a second consecutive year, and second time in program history, Henkes felt the early win in Colorado helps show they’re still trending in the right direction.

“That last season wasn’t just a hoax,” she said.

The Rebels fielded a different lineup than they had in their first tournament of the year, and Henkes said it’s likely to change throughout the season as their team of eight is highly competitive.

Freshman Andrea Lignell led the way for Ole Miss, finishing tied for seventh while senior Pi-Lillebi Hermansson notched her third career top 10 with a personal-best 5-under 211 total.

Henkes called Lignell mature beyond her years and said the Swede is one of those players that does all the right things before you ask her.”

Henkes has placed an emphasis on course management this season and said Lignell’s setting the example of knowing when to push.

In the individual race, freshman Anna Zanusso of Denver shot 68-69-68 to edge Pepperdine’s Alexa Melton by two strokes.

Denver coach Lindsay Kuhle called Zanusso one of the best ball-strikers she had ever coached and said she’s changing the culture of the team to play more confidently. Zanusso averages 16 greens per round and when her putter gets hot, as it did late Wednesday, she can go on a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie tear like she did at Red Sky.

Zanusso was ranked 300th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking when she committed to Denver and had risen to 63rd by the time she arrived on campus. Kuhle said one of Zanusso’s major goals this season is to qualify for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She was also fueled by the recent win of fellow Italian national team member Caterina Don, who won the Minnesota Invitational in her college debut at Georgia.

“All three of our freshmen are in the lineup and all on their national team,” said Kuhle, whose Pioneers finished fourth as a team. “They know how to work and they love golf. Everybody works hard and plays aggressively.”

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