Arkansas women advance to SEC championship

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Arkansas junior Maria Fassi has five wins this season, the program's most since Stacy Lewis won five en route to a national championship in 2007.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas junior Maria Fassi has five wins this season, the program's most since Stacy Lewis won five en route to a national championship in 2007.

The No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks advanced to the match play final of the SEC women’s golf championships Saturday in style by downing No. 1 Alabama by a 3-1-1 margin during a long day in Hoover, Ala.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will face No. 10 South Carolina today at 7 a.m. in a match that will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

“We’re going to go out and try to win the shot,” said Arkansas Coach Shauna Estes-Taylor, who said her iWatch recorded 13½ miles of walking Saturday. “Hopefully at the end, we can accomplish our goal. It would be amazing to bring the first-ever SEC championship for our golf team back to Fayetteville.”

The Razorbacks took down No. 13 Florida 3-2 in the morning match on the Legacy Course of the Greystone Golf & Country Club. South Carolina eliminated Missouri 3-0-2 in the morning and took out Georgia 4-1 in the afternoon.

Arkansas junior Maria Fassi, the nation’s No. 2-ranked player, had another big day with a pair of victories, including a 1 up win over No. 7 Kristen Gillman of Alabama, the U.S. Amateur champion. Junior Kaylee Benton also won both of her matches.

Junior Cara Gorlei had a victory in the morning and halved her afternoon match with Cheyenne Knight. Senior Alana Uriell split her two matches, while junior Dylan Kim went 0-2.

Fassi and Gillman, leading off for both teams on the back nine, played a tight match that was tied seven times through 13 holes before Fassi pulled ahead with back-to-back wins on Nos. 5 and 6. Gillman pulled within one with a birdie on the next hole.

Fassi, who tied South Carolina’s Ainhoa Olarro for medalist honors on Friday before losing in a playoff, held on to complete the victory.

Estes-Taylor said she wanted to pit Fassi against Gillman.

“We knew that it was going to be a tough match and a hard-fought match,” Estes-Taylor said. “When you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country you’ve got to bring your best game. We got fortunate with our lineup. If I could pick an optimal lineup, it’s the one we were able to match up.”

Benton took the lead against Alabama’s Lakareber Abe with a birdie on the first hole and never trailed. The native of Buckeye, Ariz., led by as many as four holes before taking a 3-and-2 victory.

Uriell fell behind on No. 10, got back even with a birdie on No. 11 and took the lead with a par on No. 13. The Carlsbad, Calif., native led by as many as three holes before closing out her 2-and-1 victory.

Gorlei trailed Knight for eight consecutive holes but made up a three-hole difference by getting all square with a birdie on No. 1, and taking the lead with a par on No. 2. Knight salvaged the halved match with a par on No. 9 as Gorlei bogeyed.

Kim, who tied for fourth in the stroke play portion of the SEC championships, fell 3-and-1 to Alabama’s Angelica Moresco.

The Razorbacks downed the Gators by a 3-2 margin in the morning match, with victories by Fassi, Gorlei and Benton.

Fassi bolted out to an early lead and took out Taylor Tomlinson 4-and-3. Benton won 3-and-2 over Addie Baggarty, and Gorlei edged Sierra Brooks 2-and-1.

The Arkansas losses were Uriell’s 1-up setback to Elin Esborn, and Kim’s 2-and-1 loss to Marta Perez.

Alabama beat Vanderbilt 3-2 in the morning, while South Carolina eliminated Missouri 3-0-2 and Georgia downed Auburn 3-2.

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