ARKANSAS WOMEN’S GOLF:

Firepower back for UA women

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018
Arkansas golfer Maria Fassi smiles after finishing her round on Monday, June 19, 2017, during the local qualifier for the LPGA Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship presented by P&G at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas golfer Maria Fassi smiles after finishing her round on Monday, June 19, 2017, during the local qualifier for the LPGA Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship presented by P&G at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A year from now the Arkansas Razorbacks' golf teams will host the NCAA Championships at The Blessings Golf Club.

Shauna Taylor, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville's women's coach, likes the Razorbacks' chances of competing for the national title considering they'll return four of the top five players from a team that won seven tournaments, including the program's first SEC championship.

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Arkansas' returnees include first-team All-American Maria Fassi and second-team All-American Dylan Kim, who were both juniors this this year. The Razorbacks are losing senior Alana Uriell, a second-team All-American.

"I think that's a coach's dream when you can host a national championship in your backyard and you have a lot of experience and maturity on the golf course," Taylor said Wednesday. "That's definitely something we're looking forward to and have planned for through the recruiting process."

The No. 2 Razorbacks were among the favorites to win this year's NCAA title, but they had to settle for 10th after falling one stroke short of being in a playoff for the chance to make the eight-team match play portion of the tournament.

Arkansas finished with a four-round total of 1,186 on Monday at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

If the Razorbacks had shot one stroke better, they would have been in a playoff with Arizona and Baylor to determine which team took eighth and advanced.

"You hit 1,100-plus golf shots and it comes down to you missing the cut by one," Taylor said. "It hurts, but we've got to move forward because we did a lot of cool stuff this year."

In addition to the SEC championship, the Razorbacks won their first NCAA regional title. Fassi won seven individual titles and was SEC player of the year

"You've got to look at the whole picture, and I think the whole picture shows a tremendous season for our women's golf team," Taylor said. "The last one stings, but I think what we've been able to do has been incredible."

Arkansas shot 289 in each of its last two rounds at the NCAA Championships after shooting 308 and 300 the first two rounds. The Razorbacks were tied for 16th after their opening round.

"We typically can overpower a golf course with our length and how far we hit it," Taylor said. "I think at Stillwater we weren't able to do that, and we hit a couple of foul balls early where we got in the weeds and had to take an unplayable or had to take a re-tee.

"That can get you a little rattled when you haven't had to do that a lot in a season. I think that got us off to a little bit of a slow start.

"The final round, we were the low [score] of the day. We gave it everything we had. It is what it is. It's the sport that we play, and we love it and hate it at the same time."

Taylor said what happened to Arkansas at the NCAA Championships can be the nature of golf, even on the professional level.

"You see people win a major one week and miss the cut the next," she said. "We hoped to have our best stuff, but unfortunately the first day we got off to a rocky start. We did the best we could to try and recover."

Fassi averaged 70.50 per round this year, but at the NCAA Championships she shot 81, 78, 73 and 75 for a 307 total that tied for 66th.

"Maria's won so many times in so many different ways," Taylor said. "She's done a tremendous job for us.

"She just had a bad week. She fought her tail off, though, the whole time trying to bring it back, trying to make some birdies. She would do anything she could to help our team."

Fassi, Kim and junior Kaylee Benton qualified for the U.S. Open, which will be played May 31 through June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

"They've played a lot of tremendous golf," Taylor said. "I think they'll definitely have some great experiences this summer to help them prepare as we move into next season."

Sports on 05/24/2018

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