SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Georgia women’s golf team had a simple goal for the 2022 NCAA Championships – securing a tee time for every day. After the Bulldogs shot the second-best round at the national championships in program history on Monday, the Bulldogs moved one step closer to doing so.
“It’s just another day and another tee time,” head coach Josh Brewer said after his team fired a 2-over 290 in the fourth and final round of stroke play. “We said we just wanted to have a tee time each day out here so check another box.”
Georgia finished eighth in the 72-hole portion of the tournament to advance to the match play bracket that will determine the national champion. The Bulldogs will face top-seeded Stanford in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning at 10:10 a.m. ET in a nationally televised match on the Golf Channel.
Candice Mahé fired at 4-under 68 – the second-straight day a Bulldog posted the low individual round of the field – to lead Georgia. The Bulldogs also counted an even-par 72 from Jo Hua Hung and a pair of 75s, the score signed for by Jenny Bae, LoraLie Cowart and Caterina Don.
Overall, Bae and Mahé tied for sixth on the individual leaderboard, both finishing at 1-over 289. That’s the highest individual finish by a Bulldog since Marta Silva Zamora was fourth in 2011. All told, Georgia golfers now have 23 top-10 and 38 top-20 individual finishes at the national championships since 1979.
The Bulldogs teed off from No. 10 and played the back side of the GrayhawkGolf Club layout first.
Mahé’s day went from solid to spectacular when Georgia needed it most. She turned at 1-under after mixing six pars with birdies at No. 11 and No. 18 and her lone bogey of the day at No. 12. Mahé remained at 1-under until chipping in from the bunker for birdie at No. 5.
“It has been a great day, but it started pretty chill, nothing crazy,” Mahé said. “I think I was 1-under after nine. Honestly, I think the momentum was on 5 when I made that bunker shot. I was thinking I was just going to try to make par and move onto the next hole but good for me, it went in. I was like ‘I’m 2-under, but I have no idea about the team.’ I was trying to look, but I could not see the leaderboard. Then I made another birdie on 6 and another one on 8.”
The bunker birdie started a surge when Mahé shot 3-under over the final five holes.
“When I made that bunker shot I said I think we’re on a good vibe, but I didn’t have any idea,” Mahé said. “I tried to ask Josh and (assistant coach) Caroline (Westrup), but they just said ‘You guys are good. Just continue to play your game.’ Me, I’m so competitive that I wanted to make sure that when I signed my scorecard I had nothing to regret. I trusted every shot that I wanted to hit and it went really good for me today, but I’m most happy to be here for the team.
“I’m just really happy because we all work really hard,” Mahé added. “We have struggled this whole season, but we made it where we want to be now. We’re so excited to play tomorrow.”
Mahé’s effort led a strong stretch run for Georgia. After playing their final four holes at 1-over on Sunday, the Bulldogs covered the same portion of the course at 3-under a day later.
“I think I would’ve been ok if we played well,” Brewer said. “I feel like that’s all you can ask for as a coach. We have players who have prepped wonderfully. To see them close out this round – because we hit a little speed bump – making a couple of birdies coming in and making some tough pars under stress and TV cameras coming in, I’m just happy for them.
“It was strange,” Brewer continued. “I was calm all day. I felt like we were ready, and they proved that I was correct. It’s extremely exciting. It’s the first time we’ve made it (to match play) as a program under this format so we’re just excited to be competing again tomorrow.”
Georgia will face Stanford on Tuesday, with UCLA meeting Auburn in the other half of the Bulldogs’ bracket. Oregon will take on San Jose State and Texas A&M will play Florida State in the other quarterfinals. The quarterfinal winners will advance to the semifinals on Tuesday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. ET.
Much like just trying to earn a tee time, Brewer is keeping Tuesday’s strategy simple.
“Just get the three points,” Brewer said. “It sounds crazy but look at our track record. Jenny and Jo have been unbelievable during their time at Georgia. Candice and Caterina have played a lot of match play. LoraLie has had success at the USGA level. We don’t fear anybody. Obviously, we’ll respect the heck out of whoever we play, but what a wonderful opportunity in front of us. There’s only eight of us left. We hope to be here saying we’re one of two left tomorrow.”
Mahé will meet NCAA medalist Rose Zhang in the third match to hit the course.
“I am really excited,” Mahé said. “I love match play. I love playing against other girls. To me, it’s much more fun that stroke play. Tomorrow, we have nothing to lose basically. I don’t think anyone expected us here going into match play tomorrow, so we’re really excited.”
Monday’s round continued an amazing stretch for Mahé. She entered the NCAA Regionals last week with a stroke average of 75.50 over 20 rounds this season. In seven rounds in the NCAA Regionals and Championships, Mahé’saverage is 71.71 with three rounds in the 60s. Prior to the Regionals, Mahé had one score in the 60s in 53 rounds at UGA.
On Monday, Georgia also guaranteed the program’s 21st top-10 finish at the national championships since 1979 but the Bulldogs’ first since finishing 10th in 2008. Georgia’s 2-over 290 on Monday tied the Bulldogs’ second-best effort ever at the NCAA Championships’ finals site. Georgia also shot 290 in the final round of the 2001 NCAA Championships en route to capturing the national title. The best round ever was a 289 in the fourth round of the 1988 Championships; however, that was a 7-under score on a par-74 layout in Las Cruces, N.M.
The Golf Channel’s will cover the rest of the tournament live. Tuesday’s quarterfinals will air from Noon-2:30 p.m. and the and semifinals be televised from 5:00-9:00 p.m. ET. The national championship match will be shown from 5:00-9:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Live scoring also is available via golfstat.com.
NCAA Women’s Golf Championships
Grayhawk Golf Club
Par 72; 6340 Yards
Monday’s Fourth-Round Standings
Texas A&M 292-297-288-289=1166
Florida State 296-295-296-292=1179
San Jose State 307-296-285-293=1181
Arizona State 302-290-302-290=1184
Southern California 298-294-300-293=1185
South Carolina 306-316-300-288=1191
Rose Zhang, Stanford 68-70-69-75=282
Natasha Andrea Oon, SJSU 77-68-70-70=285
Jennie Park, Texas A&M 73-72-72-70=287
Ingrid Lindblad, LSU 74-70-73-70=288
Tze-Han Lin, Oregon 72-71-71-74=289
Jenny Bae, Georgia 76-71-67-75=290
Candice Mahé, Georgia 75-69-77-68=289
Anna Morgan, Furman 72-71-74-74=291
Chiara Tamburlini, Ole Miss 74-70-76-70=291
Emma Spitz, UCLA 74-70-75-70=291
Inez Wanamarta, Purdue 74-74-70-73=291
Beth Lillie, Virginia 73-69-75-74=291
Additional Georgia Scores
T31. Caterina Don 73-75-73-75=296
T70. Jo Hua Hung 79-76-81-72=308
Céleste Dao sb-76-83-sb
LoraLie Cowart 79-sb-sb-75