Strong second day on the links propels Horns to top 10 finish

Blake McAdow

Texas was looking for the perfect day to shoot themselves back into the UCF Challenge for Tuesday’s final round. The Longhorns struck gold, posting the second-best score of the day of 5-over-par (293) to finish the tournament ninth out of the 18 teams competing, and finished in the top 10 for the fourth consecutive year.

Auburn won the team title, shooting 1-under-par (863) to edge out Baylor by two strokes (861).

Coming into the final round, Texas was in 11th after a disappointing second round, shooting 18-over-par (306), but the Longhorns fought back Tuesday, sinking 11 birdies, compared to only four birdies Monday.

It was clear that three months off didn’t rattle Texas’ focus, as they got off to a quick start Sunday before finishing strong Tuesday.

“Everybody works hard when they go home for the offseason and gets after it,” said head coach Martha Richards. “I think we’ve practiced hard. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen at practice.”

Individually, senior Nicole Vandermade led Texas, shooting only one of the three rounds over par to finish at 2-over-par (218), ninth overall out of the 99 players. Juniors Madison Pressel, Katelyn Sepmoree and Haley Stephens also finished in the top half of the field to complete the Longhorns’ balanced attack. The same four women finished in the top half of the same event last year.

“It’s always a good thing to have more experience,” said head coach Martha Richards. “They’re more motivated to keep building on what we’ve done.”

The Longhorns will have the next few weeks to practice at home as they get ready to continue their spring schedule, which prepares them better than most might expect.

“Because we have enough weather change in Austin, we’re really fortunate that we can prepare for the conditions we need and we’re really prepared when we go on the road,” Richards said.

Next, Texas travels in March to Columbia, South Carolina for the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Tournament.

“We really want to build on our top 10-15 ranking, and win the Big 12,” said Richards. “I try to stay away from expectations because I think that’s more pressure, but we are just trying to take care of our business.”

No matter what the coach might say, the defending Big 12 champions have tons of experience that could lead to them farther than even another Big 12 title.