The members of the No. 2 USC women’s golf team were looking to start strong, but even they didn’t expect this.
“This is the first time we’ve ever won the first game of the season,” coach Andrea Gaston said.
In a tournament with eight top-10 teams and terrible conditions, the Women of Troy came away with the victory at the Mason Rudolph Championship at the Vanderbilt Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn. The team finished at 16-under 560 (278-282), two strokes ahead of No. 3 UCLA at 10-under 562.
Sophomore Jennifer Song, who had noted in the past that winning an individual tournament was a goal of hers, captured the individual title with a score of 12-under 132 (66-66).
“I just had a great game out there,” Song said of her two bogey-free rounds.
Song rode a hot putter to her first outright victory of her collegiate career.
“The first round I had 26 putts, and the next round I had 27,” she said. “Those putting scores are what I want to have, and they make my score really low.”
Junior Lizette Salas recovered from a rough first round to finish tied for 25th at one-under 143 (74-69).
“Lizette was disappointed in her first round, but she came back very strong in the second round,” Gaston said.
With UCLA closing in on the lead on the back nine of the final round, Salas birdied 17. This, with Song’s closing birdies on 17 and 18 “helped us seal the victory,” according to Gaston.
Senior Caroline Kim and sophomore Inah Park tied for 30th at even par 144, with both shooting 74 in the first round and 70 in the second round. For Park, the round of 70 is her lowest in a collegiate tournament.
Freshman Cyna Rodriguez, making her USC debut, finished tied for 40th at 1-over 145 (72-73).
“Cyna played very well as a freshman,” Gaston said, noting that both of her scores counted towards the team score (the highest individual score is dropped).
The team performed despite bad weather, as the course was wet all weekend and Saturday’s second round was cancelled due to rain.
“It was really soggy, and our new shoes got really messy. I was upset about that,” Song joked.
Despite the conditions, the team was able to put together a very low score without senior All-American Belen Mozo, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.
“This tournament helped us to develop the depth we’re going to need to compete this year,” Gaston said.
That depth will certainly be necessary given the team’s upcoming schedule. Beginning Oct. 16 at the Stanford Invitational, the team has three back-to-back tournaments.
“In between, we’re not going to have too many days to work on things in between,” said Gaston. “The preparation between now and Stanford will really dictate how we close out the fall.”
Though the team is pleased with its historic start, the members know that this tournament doesn’t matter when the national championship rolls around.
“It’s exciting to start off well, but we’re looking to close well in May,” said Gaston. “Our mindset is that we have to work hard because we have a lot of tough competition coming up.”