Hog Calls:

UA has momentum entering NCAA golf tourney

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, May 12, 2018
Arkansas golfer Maria Fassi lines up a putt on No. 18 during the local qualifier for the LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Monday, June 18, 2017, at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas golfer Maria Fassi lines up a putt on No. 18 during the local qualifier for the LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Monday, June 18, 2017, at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Finishing sixth would have advanced the Arkansas Razorbacks to the NCAA Women's Golf Tournament just like finishing first did at the 18-team Austin Regional last Monday through Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

But yes, Arkansas coach Shauna Taylor said Friday it was special winning their first NCAA Golf regional in UA women's history right after winning the program's first SEC Golf Championship. It was especially special where they won the regional and by how much they beat the host.

Led by individual winner Maria Fassi, 69-70-69 for a 3-day 8-under par 208; Dylan Kim, third, 79-68-73 for 5-under par 211; and Kaylee Benton, 72-68-69 and Alana Uriell, 78-65-69, tying for fourth at 4-under 212, Arkansas as a team shot 26-under par. That obliterated by 11 strokes runner-up Texas, Arkansas' archrival from old Southwest Conference days and hosting the Austin Regional.

So while a regional win counts no more than a sixth advancing as a full team to the national championship tournament May 18-23 in Stillwater, Okla., it will always register with Taylor and resonate with those Arkansas fans still seeing red at the sight of Texas' burnt orange.

"They do count," Taylor said. "And obviously being at Texas, it's a really cool thing being able to go there and win with our rivalry from years ago. I got a lot of emails and stuff about that that was pretty cool to see. I think for us it helps create momentum and confidence. It really helps us for the next step."

That next step to Stillwater, even as the SEC champion nationally third-ranked, can't occur without advancing from the regional which her Razorbacks didn't do last year and on past occasions sometimes sweated throughout the final day.

"It was the first time in my whole career here that I didn't have to stress the final round at NCAA regionals," Taylor said. "We went on a mission to punch our ticket to Stillwater and the girls just did an amazing job. We had a first and third and two fourths."

Much like Taylor and assistant coach Mike Adams prescribed.

"Mike and I always say, 'If you can have somebody in contention to win the golf tournament, then you can have your team in contention win the golf tournament," Taylor said. "We had a lot of people in contention to win so it was really fun that last day."

Fassi, a junior and the SEC Player of the Year, obviously is the star positioning years to come to get mentioned in the same breath as Arkansas legend Stacy Lewis, Arkansas' only NCAA Women's golf champion and still outstanding on the LPGA tour.

But Kim and lone senior Uriell also were first-team SEC.

Benton provided the match play clincher that beat South Carolina for the SEC championship.

"It takes a group effort to do special things in golf," Taylor said. "Everybody contributed each week in a lot of different ways."

Sports on 05/12/2018

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