SORRENTO, FLA. - The University of North Carolina ninth-ranked women's golf team captured its third consecutive win this year at the UCF Challenge. The Tar Heels fired a 1-over-par 289 in the final round for a 10-under 854 total and increased the 16-stroke advantage they held going into Tuesday's final round by one stroke. The Tar Heels were led in the final round by junior Katherine Perry, who fired a 3-under-par 69. After a rough start on each of the counting players' first five holes (shotgun start) where they were 8-over, the Tar Heels turned it around finishing the remaining 13 holes in 7-under (13 birdies, six bogeys).
"The girls went out today and they had a good frame of mind going into today's round," says Tar Heel head coach Jan Mann. "I think hole locations were quite a bit tougher today and the wind was still up so the course played tougher than in previous rounds. At one point, the team was 8-over for the day, but they stayed patient and came back and had a very strong performance."
This marks the second time in school history that the women's golf team has won three tournaments in a row. Prior to the UCF Challenge, the first event of the spring, Carolina won its final two tournaments of the fall campaign, the Liz Murphey Fall Preview (Oct. 5-7, 2012) and the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational (Oct. 12-14, 2012). You have to go back 24 years to the spring of 1989 for the only other time Carolina won three consecutive tournaments. That year, they won the Duke Spring Invitational (Mar. 30-Apr. 2, 1989), the Lady Paladin Invitational (Apr. 6-8, 1989) and the Woodbridge Intercollegiate (Apr. 16-18, 1989).
Perry, from Cary, N.C., and freshman Elizabeth Mallett, from Sutton Coldfield, England, tied for third place at 2-under 214, just two strokes behind the champion. Perry's 3-under 69 included five birdies and two bogeys. Mallett fired an even par 72 in the final round as she carded three birdies and three bogeys. Tar Heel juniors Casey Grice and Jackie Chang also finished in the top 10. Grice, from College Station, Texas, carded a 3-over 75 on Tuesday for a 1-under 215 total to tie for sixth place while Chang, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., finished one stroke back at even par 216 in a tie for eighth place after firing a 1-over 73 in the final round. Courtney Gunter, a senior from Matthews, N.C., shot an 83 on Tuesday and finished with a 234 total in a tie for 79th. Sophomore Maia Schechter, from Takoma Park, Md., competed as an individual and tied for 75th with a 233 total after posting a 77 on Tuesday.
Carolina topped the 18-team field by firing a 10-under-par 854, 17 strokes ahead of runner-up Tulane which posted a 7-over 871 total after carding a 2-over 290 on Tuesday. The Tar Heels fired rounds of 287-278-289. Host UCF finished in third place at 12-over 876 while Miami finished fourth at 877, Virginia placed fifth at 879, East Carolina finished sixth at 882 and South Carolina seventh with an 883 total.
Briana Mao, a sophomore at Virginia,, captured the individual title with a 4-under-par 212 total after carding a 1-over 73 in the final round. F. Gustafsson Spang of East Carolina was the runner-up, finishing one stroke back at 3-under 213 after firing a 3-under 69 on Tuesday. Carolina's Mallett and Perry tied for third place at 2-under 214. Three players tied for fifth place at 1-under 215 - Carolina's Grice, Texas State's Krista Puisite and Augusta State's Natalie Wille. Another trio of players tied for eighth at even par 216 - Carolina's Chang, Coastal Carolina's Brittany Henderson and Tulane's Emily Penttila.
The 54-hole event was played at RedTail Golf Club which features a par 72, 6,374-yard layout. The Tar Heels return to action March 8-10 at the Darius Rucker Invitational in Hilton Head, S.C.