WOODBURY, Minn. — Freshman Caterina Don captured medalist honors at the Minnesota Invitational on Tuesday, becoming the first Georgia women’s golfer to win her collegiate debut in more than two decades.
Don wrapped up the 36-hole event at 9-under 135, signing for rounds of 66 and 69. She finished a shot better than Natasha Andrea Oon of San Jose State.
“It’s a really special start to college golf for one of the best players in the world,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “It’s a great kickstart to her season and all of our individual performances overall. It was an impressive 36 holes of golf. To think about all the great players who have teed it up for UGA and think she’s only the second one to win her debut, that’s pretty incredible.”
Don becomes the first Georgia golfer to claim an individual title in her collegiate debut since Summer Sirmons did so at the 1998 Auburn Tiger Invitational, which ironically also was a rain-shortened, 36-hole event.
Georgia finished sixth in the team field at 9-over 585, eight shots behind Kentucky on the leaderboard.
“For some reason we didn’t make as many birdies as we have at home,” Brewer said. “Maybe there was a little bit of rust after not competing since the summer. Then you have something like Céleste being 1-under over 34 holes. We’ll figure out those other two holes, but if she can shoot 1-under over 34 holes, I’ll take my chances with that.”
The tournament was trimmed from 54 to 36 holes when weather on Monday forced a trio of delays and eventually the suspended.
In addition to Don’s 69, on Tuesday the Bulldogs also counted a 72 from Céleste Dao, a 74 from Jo Hua Hung and a 76 from Jenny Bae in the second round.
Overall, Hung tied for 17th at 2-over 146, Dao tied for 41st at 150, Bae tied for 63rd at 154 and Kelsey Kurnett tied for 72nd at 156.
Don returned the course on Tuesday at 8-under and teeing off from No. 12. She was 2-under through her first eight holes of the second round on Monday. After teeing off from No. 4, she birdied No. 5, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 10 to move to 4-under on the day and 10-under overall. Don wrapped up her Monday with a double-bogey in the rain at No. 11 when play ended.
After notching a pair of pars to open Tuesday, Don birdied No. 14 and No. 16 to return to 10-under. She bogeyed her final hole, No. 3, but had a two-shot cushion over the rest of the field at that point.
Don’s 9-under effort equal’s the fourth-best relation-to-par individual tournament score in school history. Her 66 on Monday was just a stroke shy of tying the best single-round score ever by a Bulldog.
Kentucky finished at 1-over 577, three strokes ahead of the rest of the field. The Wildcats were followed by East Carolina at 580; San Jose State, Louisville and Virginia Tech all at 582; the Bulldogs and Oklahoma both at 585; San Francisco at 586; Miami at 588; Notre Dame at 594; Minnesota at 595; UT-San Antonio at 600; Long Beach State at 603; Missouri at 605; and Kansas at 606.
The Bulldogs will return to action in three weeks when they travel to Portland, Ore., the compete in The Molly, a first-year event co-hosted by Oregon State and Nike at the Waverly Country Club.
“Now that we have a tournament under our belts, we’ll come back to Athens and focus on what we need to as a team, and more importantly, individually,” Brewer said. “We feel like we’re a better team than a sixth-place finish here. We’ll be excited to head west in a couple of weeks and improve on this performance.”