Kayla Smith Medalist, Women’s Golf 3rd At Texas A&M

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Kayla Smith, a senior from Burlington, N.C., made four birdies and no bogeys Wednesday en route to a 4-under-par 68 to claim her first collegiate tournament championship at the Texas A&M “Mo”Morial at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.
 
Smith finished the 54-hole tournament at 9-under 207 to become the first Tar Heel to earn medalist honors since Kelly Whaley won the Briar’s Creek Invitational in Johns Isle, S.C., in March 2018.
 
Three Tar Heels – Smith, Krista Junkkari (4-under 68) and Crista Izuzquiza (3-under 69) combined to shoot 11 under par in the final round, lifting UNC to a third-place finish behind Texas A&M and Texas.
 
It was Carolina’s best finish since a second-place effort in March 2019 in the Bryan National Collegiate in Browns Summit, N.C.
 
The Tar Heels’ 860 total and 4-under finish to par equal the seventh-best results in UNC history.
 
“We were 16 under par the last two rounds which shows how good we can be,” says second-year UNC head coach Aimee Neff. “I’m really proud of the way they responded to yesterday’s first round. To travel two weeks in a row and play so well on a course they had never seen before is pretty remarkable. It should give us a lot of encouragement for the rest of the season.”
 
Carolina shot 8-under 280 today, the best round of the day. Yesterday, Carolina shot 300 in the first round in the morning but bounced back with a 280 in the second round, which equaled the Longhorns for the best score of the day.
 
Texas Tech (5-under 283) was the only other team to shoot under par today.
 

Carolina shot 560 over the last two rounds, nine shots better than any other team (Texas A&M was next best at 569 over the final 36 holes). It was the second-best back-to-back rounds in UNC history behind a 278-279 finish at the Cougar Classic in October 2016.
 
Smith’s 207 total ties the sixth-best 54-hole result by a Tar Heel and her 9-under finish equals the fifth-best score to par in school history. She shot 70-69-68 to edge Florida’s Maisie Filler by one stroke. Smith made 12 birdies, 39 pars and only three bogeys over the three rounds.
 
“Kayla played bogey-free today and deserved to win,” says Neff. “She played really, really well. I’m so happy for her because she was so consistent last year, but one of her goals for this season was to win and she’s done that in her first event of the season.”
 
“This was a longtime coming for sure, I’m pretty pumped,” says Smith. “I hit the ball really well all week and yesterday I made a few putts coming in so that gave me a chance. I was four back to start today’s round and I had to get myself in position to contend, so it was huge to come out with birdies on my first two holes.
 
“Coach Neff told me I was tied for the lead with two holes to play, which was right after I missed two short putts, so I was pretty irritated. But I kept pressing forward and put all my effort into a good finish.”
 
Junkkari was fifth, her second-highest finish as a Tar Heel. The Elmaki, Finland, native shot 73-70-68 for a 5-under 211.
 
It was the first time two Tar Heels placed in the top five in a tournament since Whaley won and Bryana Nguyen was fifth in March 2017 at Briar’s Creek.
 
Izuzquiza shot a career-low round 69 today and totaled a collegiate best 3-under 221 (81-71-69) to tie for 25th place, also her best finish as a Tar Heel.
 
Freshman Megan Streicher tied for 39th at 10 over and Vilde Nystrøm tied for 50th at 12 over.
 
Carolina returns to action Oct. 10-11 at the Ivy Intercollegiate at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
 
 


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Steve Kirschner

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