The No. 11-ranked Georgia women’s golf team will open play in the 2021 NCAA Championships on Friday. The 24-team tournament will be contested from May 21-26 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Bulldogs will be looking to continue their stellar play from NCAA Regional competition when they swept the team and individual titles in Columbus, Ohio. Georgia captured the team crown by a commanding 15 strokes over the field, while junior Jenny Bae earned medalist honors by a three-shot margin.
“It’s probably the best we’ve played as a program in three or four years quite honestly, especially with the stakes on the line,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “They seemed comfortable and relaxed leading into Regionals, and they seem that way after Regionals.
“It’s a confidence factor,” Brewer added. “You see it in golf. People or teams will get on runs of four or six or eight weeks where they just sort of dominate. We’ve been waiting for that. Now, let’s ride it. Let’s not be arrogant about it, but at the same time be very confident that we have five people who go out there and have a chance to win individually. That only helps the team get to the top and advance into match play.”
Georgia grabbed the lead with a spectacular late-day surge in the second round in Columbus, playing the final three holes at 6-under as a team to garner a seven-shot edge. Concurrently, Bae birdied six of her final seven holes to move atop the individual leaderboard.
The Bulldogs closed out Regionals in impressive fashion, more than doubling that margin between the rest of the field in the final round.
Georgia will be the No. 11 seed in Scottsdale. The Bulldogs will be paired with No. 10 seed Arizona State, the tournament host, and No. 12 seed Baylor for the first two rounds, teeing off in 11-minute increments between 3:36-4:20 p.m. ET on Friday. On Saturday, The Sun Devils, Bulldogs and Bears will tee off from No. 10 between 10:36-11:20 a.m. ET.
Georgia, which has 20 top-10 finishes in the last 41 editions of the national championships, is returning to the NCAA finals for the first time since 2016. That year, the Bulldogs swept the Regional in Bryan, Texas, shooting 6-under as a team and with then-freshman Bailey Tardy tying for medalist honors with UCLA’s Bronte Law. Georgia arrived at Eugene Country Club as the No. 6 seed with serious national championship aspirations only to finish a disappointing 18th.
“Last time we won (Regionals), we were sort of full of ourselves and expected to show up in Oregon and play great,” Brewer said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t. This is a little different. We’ve enjoyed it, but we’re already focusing on the mindset of how to play the course out there and have the same focus as last week.”
In Scottsdale, the Bulldogs will stick with the same playing five from Columbus. While that was obviously a given, it is worth noting Georgia has utilized seven different lineups in 10 tournaments this season.
Bae and Jo Hua Hung, who are juniors, are the only Bulldogs to play in every event. They will be joined by sophomores Caterina Don and Candice Mahé and freshman Isabella Holpfer. Caroline Craig is Georgia’s reserve player.
Bae has been the most consistent Bulldog this season. She has three top-10 finishes and seven top-20 efforts and also leads Georgia in virtually every key statistic.
Don and Hung sport four and three top-20 efforts, respectively. Both have shined outside the collegiate game this season as well. Don is one of only nine golfers to make the final round cut of both Augusta National Women’s Amateurs, finishing 12th in 2019 and 25th in 2021. Hung recently earned a spot in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open field by placing third at a qualifier at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta on May 5.
Holpfer and Mahé posted their best finishes for Georgia in Regional play, tying for fifth individually. They own impressive competitive resumes and have a combined eight appearances in European Girls’ and Ladies’ Team Championships.
The NCAAs will feature 24 teams competing in 54 holes of stroke play on Friday-Sunday. The field will be cut to the top-15 teams and top-9 golfers not on advancing teams for an additional stroke play round on Monday. Following that round, the medalist will be crowned and the top-8 teams will advance to a match play bracket.
The Bulldogs’ Lineup
1. Jenny Bae – 5-3; Jr.; Suwanee, Ga.
• Medalist at Columbus Regional
• Every round in 2020-21 has been counting score for UGA
• Named second-team All-SEC
• Ranked No. 10 by Golfstat/No. 12 by Golfweek after fall campaign
2. Candice Mahé – 5-8; Soph.; Gourin, Franace
• 2021 ANWA participant
• Career-bests for finish (t-5th), round (71 twice) and 54-hole score (217) at Columbus
• Shot 11-under to win 2018 French Girls’ Amateur by 12 strokes
3. Isabella Holpfer – 5-7; Fr.; Vienna, Austria
• Competed in the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur
• Season-best t-5th at Columbus
• Ranked as high as No. 25 in WAGR
• Runner-up at the 2018 & 2019 R&A Girls’ Amateurs
4. Caterina Don – 5-6; Soph.; Pinerolo, Italy
• 2020 second-team All-America selection by Golfweek
• One of nine golfers to make the cut at both the 2019 & 2021 Augusta National Women’s Ams
• Nine top-20s in 15 career events
5. Jo Hua Hung – 5-4; Jr.; New Taipei City, Taipei
• 2021 U.S. Open Qualifier
• One of two UGA golfers to compete in all 10 ’20-21 events
• Named 2019 SEC All-Freshman
• Finished 29th at the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship