ATHENS, Ga. —- The Georgia women’s golf team begins the 2023 calendar portion of its schedule on Sunday when the Bulldogs tee off at the Collegiate Invitational at the Guadalajara Country Club. The 54-hole event in Guadalajara, Mexico will feature 27 holes of play on both Sunday and Monday.
The tournament is hosted by Virginia, one of five top-25 teams in the 12-school field. No. 8 Ole Miss is the highest-ranked entrant, followed by No. 10 Florida State, No. 12 Virginia, No. 13 Arizona and No. 24 Baylor. Cal, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State and Tennessee round out the competing teams.
Georgia enters the spring ranked No. 40 by Golfstat and No. 41 by Golfweek. The Bulldogs, who returned all six golfers who competed in Georgia’s run to the quarterfinals of match play at last spring’s NCAA Championships, are ready to put the fall campaign behind them. The Bulldogs’ playing five in Mexico will consist of super seniors Jenny Bae and Jo Hua Hung and seniors Caterina Don, Céleste Dao and Candice Mahé. In addition, junior Isabella Holpfer will compete as an individual.
“The most important team piece is to just compete, showing up and representing the University of Georgia like we know we should,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “That’s the big thing. Our motto and kind of the talk we’ve had over the break is – the fall is what it is but this spring we’re going to show the country who we are. We get it. You’ve got to do your individual piece, but there’s the team component that gets added in there and gets the most attention.”
Last Saturday, five Georgia golfers competed in the one-day, 36-hole Lady Bulldog Individual Championship at the UGA Golf Course, with Bulldogs dominating the leaderboard. Hung captured medalist honors by shooting 2-under 142, followed by senior Dao in second, Holpfer in third, Don in sixth and sophomore LoraLie Cowart in 14th.
“I hope it goes like the start of the individual portion and life will be great,” Brewer said. “We need to start. Our fall is behind us, and we’re ready to get a fresh start. It’s the most important portion of our schedule, and I feel like we’re playing well. We’re excited to get down there and see some teams and see where we are. We feel like we’re the best team in the nation, and we look forward to proving it this spring.”
Bae enjoyed a stellar fall season and enters the spring ranked No. 5 by Golfstat and No. 7 by Golfweek in individual national rankings. She is one of three top-10 golfers in the field this weekend along with Andrea Lignall of Ole Miss (No. 2 Golfstat/No. 3 Golfweek) and Lottie Woad of Florida State (No. 7 Golfstat/No. 6 Golfweek).
Bae was a combined 32-under over 12 fall rounds, with 10 par-or-better efforts. Her stroke average of 68.83 is on pace to crush the current school record of 71.04 by more than three strokes per round. In four fall tournaments, Bae won the Illini Invitational – shooting a school-record 16-under – and finished second, fourth and 10th in the others.
“I think the main focus for me is continue what I did last semester and stay patient and just focus on whatever is right in front of me instead of worrying about what’s going to happen or what already happened,” Bae said. I think that’s key for me to continuing my good scores. I feel like there are always thing to sharpen in your game no matter what level you are. For me, that’s still going to be short game, from like 30-60 yards. I’ve been working on it really hard with both our coaches so hopefully I can show that there.”
Dao fired a season-best 2-under 70 and was the first-round leader at the Lady Bulldog last weekend. She’s hoping for similar results this week.
“I’m excited, especially since it’s in warm weather,” Dao said. “That’s good for the birdies. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot. Being off (from competition) for the past two months, I’ve put in a lot of hard work. I came prepared and was excited for the first home tournament, and it paid off. I was putting really good. I changed my putter around Christmas, and it’s going in. It’s really solid, and I’m confident in that.”
While golf is traditionally an individual sport, coaches and golfers generally enjoy the team aspect of the college season.
“There’s a lot of things I like, mainly when we travel,” Bae said. “Being able to see you other teammates across the holes and, whether they’re playing good or bad, being there for them and them being there for me. Visually seeing them some times – saying ‘if they can do it’ it kind of gives you the confidence that you can too.”
“I think the fact that we’re traveling all together,” Dao stated. “Golf is such an individual sport, but we bring all our energy together before the rounds and it gives a boost for the rounds. The whole energy around traveling, eating together and working out together is great momentum for us.”
“I like team,” Brewer stated matter of factly. “That’s why you coach. If not, I’d go hang out with someone on Tour or go caddy.”
The Bulldogs will tee off in nine-minute increments between 10:30-11:15 a.m. ET on Sunday. Georgia will be paired with Baylor and N.C. State for the first round and a half. Live scoring will be available throughout the tournament at www.golfstat.com.