KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The 14th-ranked University of Arkansas women’s golf team moved up one spot for a runner-up finish at the Mercedes Benz Collegiate in Knoxville, Tenn., Sunday.
The Razorbacks began play tied for third overall but carded the second lowest round of the day with a 283 to finish with 869 (291-295-283), 20 strokes behind the winner. Arkansas trailed host and No. 31 Tennessee who won the tournament after leading wire-to-wire at Holston Hills Country Club. The Lady Vols won the event with an 849 (280-284-285).
"It was a great effort today by the entire team," Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said. "We took care of some of the details and got some putts to fall for us. We had a good game plan going into today’s round and we executed very well. Even with all the things we did right, there is still room for improvement and we’re coming home to work on a couple of little things before our next event."
For the first time in program history, all five Razorbacks were even or under par for the day. Arkansas had 21 birdies as a team in the final round and 49 for the event.
"That’s a testament to how hard this team is working," Estes-Taylor said. "It was just awesome. Everything that we’ve been working on came together today. We have some depth and we’re a pretty good golf team and that showed today. I think Tennessee was a bit out of reach when we started the day but they were looking over their shoulder when we made the turn. It was so exciting to finish strong.
"Ya know, we have really great team chemistry," Estes-Taylor continued. "We believe in each other and feed off of each other’s success. We are fueled by what each other does. It makes us a better golf team as a whole."
Senior Kelli Shean emerged as the team’s top finisher shooting an even par 72 in the final round for a 213 (69-72-72). Shean was sixth overall at the tournament. The Cape Town, South Africa, native was three-under on the front nine and three over on the back nine.
Freshman Emily Tubert finished even on the day shooting 219 (74-73-72) for the tournament. The Burbank, Calif., native’s final round saw her play the front nine one-under with two birdies and a bogey. She picked up two bogies on the back nine with one birdie for her even par.
Senior Corinna Rees made one of the biggest moves of the tournament. Rees started the final round tied for 35th overall but vaulted up the leaderboard with a three-under 69 to tie Tubert for 19th overall with 219 (75-75-69).
Rees played the back nine two under and had seven birdies in the round. She had two birdies in each of the previous rounds.
"For Corinna to shoot 69 is exactly what we need in that spot," Estes-Taylor said. "She really came through today and I’m proud of what she did."
Redshirt freshman Emma Lavy, playing in her second career event, finished tied for 23rd overall with a 220. She posted her first under-par round with a 71 on Sunday (73-76-71).
Lavy, a Fayetteville, Ark., native, was two-under on the front nine and added a third birdie on the 16th hole.
Sophomore Victoria Vela was also much-improved in the final round. Vela began her day tied for 56th overall but moved to a tie for 38th with a final round 71, jumping 18 spots. Vela finished with a 225 (79-75-71). Vela’s round had four birdies and she had eight for the tournament.
"They both (Lavy and Vela) played like they should and didn’t make a lot of mistakes," Estes-Taylor said. "They did a really great job."
Redshirt freshman Rachel Carpenter finished with a 246 in 80th place overall and an indvidual. Carpenter improved in her final round going 81-87-78.
The Razorbacks finished five strokes better than third place No. 18 Kent State who finished with an 874. The rest of the field included No. 29 Ole Miss (875), No. 12 Notre Dame (876), No. 35 TCU (879), No. 43 UT-Chattanooga (882), UTSA (886), Furman (894), Kentucky (897), James Madison (900), Coastal Carolina (902), Georgia State (904), East Tennessee State (916) and UNC-Greensboro (923).
The Razorbacks return to the links Oct. 25-27, for the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown in Boulder City, Nev., at Boulder Creek Golf Course. They wrap up the fall at the Pac 10-SEC Challenge in Palo Alto, Calif.