It wasn't the day to be the hunted at the VyStar Gators Invitational which wrapped up on Sunday at the Mike Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville, Fla.
Florida and Michigan, ranked 13th and 14th, respectively, in the Golfweek/Sagarin poll, overtook second-ranked Oklahoma State to share the team title while Michigan's Ashley Lau
shot a career-low 66 to chase down Han-Hsuan Lu to claim medalist honors by a single stroke.
Oklahoma State entered the final round with a seven-shot lead over Florida and Ole Miss but an 11-over 291 by the Cowgirls on Sunday left the door ajar for any one of four teams that dared to enter. The Gators and Wolverines were up for the challenge and were left battling for the team title coming down the stretch after the Cowgirls fell out of contention.
The Gators trailed by as many as four shots with nine holes remaining but strong inward nines by Annabell Fuller
and Marina Escobar
earned Florida its second win of the spring and seventh straight VyStar Gators Invitational title overall.
Escobar closed with a 68 to jump into an eight-way tie for fourth place at 2-over 212, a pack which included Fuller, who shot a 1-under 69 over her final 18 holes, and Jenny Kim
, who was two over for the day. Maisie Filler
tied for 12th at 3-over 213 while Clara Manzalini
also earned a top-20 finish, tying for 17th place at 6-over 216.
"Always pleased to win," said Florida head coach Emily Glaser. "Winning is hard. We knew it was going to be especially hard this year because the field was good. It was really close at the end and I have to be honest, I'm not sure I expected that. The scoreboard changed from me at the bottom of the hill to driving to the top of the hill. It was exciting and I am happy for the team.
"I don't think we had our best stuff this week, but that's the advantage of being at home. If you can play to your strengths and we know the golf course better than anyone, so that helped us pull it through at the end."
Michigan earned its second title of the season on Sunday
Michigan was the best team on the course on Sunday, as the Wolverines carded a 4-under 276 to earn a share of the team title with the host Gators. Starting the day in fifth place 12 back of Oklahoma State, the Wolverines made up 15 shots on the Cowgirls to change up the leaderboard to tie the Gators.
Lau led the comeback with a closing round of 4-under 66 to overtake Han-Hsuan Lu of Oklahoma State, which started the day with a two-shot lead.
Lau quickly moved into a tie for the lead with birdies on her first two holes (4 and 5) and then bookended her first nine with two more birdies to make the turn in 7-under. Her lone bogey of the day came on her 13th hole and was quickly erased with her fifth birdie on the day two holes later. Three steady pars to finish were enough to hold off Lu to win the individual title by a stroke at 7-under 203.
Lau opened the tournament with a career-best 67 and took less than 24 hours to better that mark with a Sunday 66 to record the first sub-par 54-hole tournament total of her career. It's her second-straight win after tying for medalist honors at the Tulane Classic and third career individual win.
"Going into the final round, I just stuck to my game plan and really just tried to enjoy being in the sun," said Lau. "I didn't think much about scores because I wanted to enjoy playing out on the golf course. Team-wise, I am really proud of the girls. We told ourselves that we would just go out today and play golf. We did that today and that just shows our resilience. Nothing more than love for my girls."
In addition to Lau's 66, Michigan received big final rounds from Hailey Borja
and Anika Dy
, who both turned in rounds of 69, while Ashley Kim
held steady with a 72. Borja tallied a 214 (74-71-69) total to finish tied for 14th while Dy bounced back from a second-round 77 to post the first sub-70 round of her career.
"We had a great learning experience at Tulane trying to chase down the leaders and I'm so proud of the way they battled today," said Michigan assistant coach A.J. Newell. "We knew we were capable of playing great. We've been practicing hard all week and to see it finally come together was very special."
"Ashley (Lau) continues her run of great golf and I'm so happy for her. She's having fun and that really shines through in her play. Hailey's (Borja) final round capped off a great week for her. She built momentum and battled through a long day yesterday. I'm happy to see her finish on such a high note."
Michigan now has two wins and a pair of runner-up finishes in its six events this season.
Denver's Anna Zanusso
had a strong week, finishing in solo third at even par 210 on rounds of 71-68-71.
Michigan and Florida Athletic Communications contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE Florida Gators Women's Invitational
54 hole women's college tournament hosted by the
University of Florida women's team. Team (best four
scores out of five players each day) and individual
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