Women of Troy finish fall season on high note

Playing with just four players for the first time since 2002, the No. 10 USC women’s golf team ended its fall campaign on a strong note, finishing tied for fourth at the SEC/Pac-12 Challenge in Knoxville, Tenn. The tournament marked the best finish so far this year for the Women of Troy, who won an impressive four tournaments last season.

USC concluded play with an overall score of 16-over 880, tied for fourth with Tennessee. Alabama won the 23-team tournament with a score of 1-over 865, followed by UCLA at 5-over 869 and Auburn at 15-over 879.

USC was already undermanned when play started Friday, as sophomore Sophia Popov injured her wrist in last week’s Stanford Intercollegiate tournament and did not fly with the team to Knoxville. Because of this, combined with the quick turnaround from last week, the Women of Troy fielded just  four players, even though teams are allowed to use five players and potentially drop their lowest individual score. It was the first time since the 2002 NCAA Regionals that the USC women’s team participated in a tournament with only four players.

The Women of Troy jumped up to fourth place Sunday, finishing at 16-over 880. Freshman Kristen Park recorded an impressive 4-under 68 on the final 18 holes, finishing tied for seventh at 1-over 217. McCloskey also finished seventh, shooting a 1-under 71. Inah Park finished the final round with a score of 2-over 74 and concluded the tournament tied for 20th at 3-over 219. Morris rebounded from her tough second round to shoot 2-over 74, coming in tied for 59th at 11-over 227.

The second round saw considerable individual improvement from the Women of Troy, who came in at 7-over 295. Inah Park shot an even-72 to finish play Saturday tied for 13th at 1-over 145, while McCloskey also carded even to conclude two rounds tied for 20th at 2-over 146. Kristen Park shot a 1-over 73 to hit 5-over 149, while Morris struggled to a 6-over 78 for a two-round total of 9-over 153.

The Women of Troy got off to a competitive start, finishing play Friday tied for ninth at 10-over 298. Senior Inah Park led all USC golfers with a first-round score of 1-over 73. After falling to 3-over after 12 holes, Park bounced back to finish 2-over through the final six, finishing tied for 23rd place. Senior Lisa McCloskey recorded a birdie and three bogeys en route to a score of 2-over 74, finishing tied for 32nd. Sophomore Rachel Morris struggled to a 4-over through the first six holes but regrouped to finish tied for 46th at 3-over 75. Freshman Kristen Park, who played as an individual last week, finished tied for 55th at 4-over 76.

“Our fab four have something in which they can be very proud,” USC coach Andrea Gaston said. “It was a big-time field, so this was a darn good performance to have low round of the day. It was a difficult and long course that required a lot of patience on the greens.”

The Women of Troy will be off until February, when they begin the spring season with the 2012 Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, Calif.