Kayla Smitha senior from Burlington, North Carolina had four birdies and no bogeys Wednesday en route to a 4-under 68 to win her first collegiate tournament championship at Texas A&M “Mo” Morial at the Traditions Club in Bryan, N.A. Texas.
Smith finished the 54-hole tournament at 9-under 207 to become the first Tar Heel to earn medal honors since Kelly Whaley won the Briar’s Creek Invitational in Johns Isle, SC, in March 2018.
Three Tar Heels – Smith, Krista Junkkari (4-under 68) and Crista Izuzquiza (3-under 69) combined to shoot 11-under in the final round, elevating UNC to a third-place finish behind Texas A&M and Texas.
It was Carolina’s best finish since finishing second in March 2019 at Bryan National Collegiate in Browns Summit, North Carolina.
The total of 860 and 4 under the Tar Heels ties the seventh-best finish in UNC history.
“We were 16 under the last two rounds, which shows how good we can be,” said the second-year UNC head coach. Aimee Neff. “I’m really proud of how they responded to the first round yesterday. To travel two weeks in a row and play so well at a course they’ve never seen before is quite remarkable. That should give us a lot of encouragement to the rest of the season.”
Carolina shot 8-under 280 today, the best run 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 tied 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 final two rounds, nine shots better than any other team (Texas A&M was second-best at 569 over the final 36 holes). It was the second-best consecutive run 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 score by a Tar Heel and his 9-under score ties for the fifth-best tie score in school history. She shot 70-69-68 to edge Maisie Filler of Florida by one shot. Smith had 12 birdies, 39 pars and just three bogeys over the three rounds.
“Kayla played bogey-free today and deserved to win,” Neff said. “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 did that in her first race of the season.”
“For sure it was a long time coming, I’m pretty excited,” Smith said. “I’ve been hitting the ball really well all week and yesterday I made a few putts which gave me a chance. I was down to four to start today’s round and I had to put in position to fight, so it was huge to come with birdies on my first two holes.
“Coach Neff told me I was tied for the lead with two holes to play, just after missing two short putts, so I was quite irritated. But I kept going and put all my efforts in a good finish.”
Junkkari finished fifth, his second best result 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 had finished in the top five at a tournament since Whaley won and Bryana Nguyen was fifth in March 2017 at Briar’s Creek.
Izuzquiza shot a career-low 69 round today and totaled a best 3-under 221 (81-71-69) to tie for 25th, also his best result as a Tar Heel.
First-year student Megan Streicher tied for 39th at age 10 and Vilde Nystrøm tied for 50th at age 12.
Carolina returns to action October 10-11 at the Ivy Intercollegiate at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ