It did not take long for the defending national champion USC women’s golf team to pick up its first win of the fall season. The No. 1 Women of Troy erased a three-stroke deficit on the final day of the Dale McNamara Fall Preview to move past several tough teams and secure a victory to begin their 2013-14 campaign.
It was truly a comeback for the Women of Troy, who finished Monday’s opening round at Tulsa Country Club tied for eighth place, 10 strokes behind the leaders. Fortunately, dominating play from sophomore Kyung Kim and inconsistency from several opponents helped the squad claim its fourth straight victory dating back to last spring.
Once again leading the way for the Trojans on Wednesday was the red-hot Kim, who picked up her second career individual title. The sophomore shot a blistering 4-under 66, her third straight round in the 60s and the ninth such round of her young career. Kim finished the tournament at 6-under overall, two strokes in front of Oklahoma State’s Julie Yang, Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow and Arizona State’s Noemi Jimenez.
After taking the first two days of the tournament to get back into the swing of things, senior Sophia Popov found her groove on Wednesday. Popov shot a 2-under 68 in the final round, lowering her overall score to 5-over and moving her behind only Kim for USC’s best score.
Popov’s initial struggles and eventual breakthrough mirrored her team’s experience.
“We fought really hard out there to get that ‘W’,” Popov told USCTrojans.com. “We struggled the first two days so it was great to show the other teams today that we belong up there and have just as strong a team as we had last year. Today’s round showed the potential our team has and we hope to keep the momentum going.”
No. 3 Duke, which began the day atop the leaderboard, struggled down the stretch in the final round, opening up chances for several top teams to take the crown. Ultimately it was the Women of Troy, behind strong play from Kim and Popov, who outlasted No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 16 Oklahoma State.
Freshman Gabriella Then was again solid in her collegiate debut, finishing 2-over for the round and 6-over for the tournament. The rookie was a picture of consistency, bookending 16 consecutive pars with bogeys on holes one and 18. Behind Then was sophomore Annie Park, who couldn’t match her 2-under 68 from round two. The defending individual national champion finished the day at 4-over, raising her three day total to 7-over.
It will likely not be the last time USC takes on this tough group of opponents, which also included No. 2 Alabama and No. 6 Arkansas. The Trojans also hope it will not be their last trip to Tulsa this school year — the NCAA championships return to Tulsa in the spring for the first time since 1999.
The Women of Troy return to action in three weeks, when they will travel to the Chicago area for the Windy City Collegiate Classic at Northmoor Country Club. There they will attempt to capture a fifth straight team victory, breaking a record established by the national championship squad from 2008.