Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Razorbacks women’s golf continues to impress
University of Arkansas' Maria Fassi (left) Monday, May 20, 2019, with head coach Shauna Taylor on the first fairway during the NCAA women's golf championship Monday the Blessings Golf Club in Johnson.
FAYETTEVILLE — LPGA icon Stacy Lewis always comes home to the LPGA’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship as queen of University of Arkansas women’s golf.
She always will as long as she plays the game.
But for this year's tournament, June 28-30 at the Pinnacle in Rogers, the queen requires a throne fitting two.
For in her final tournament as a Razorback, Maria Fassi, became a queen in her own right.
The about-to-turn-pro UA senior from Mexico became women’s college golf’s individual national champion. Despite gone-with-the-wind conditions in the foul weather shortened from 72 to 54 holes stroke play, Fassi shot a final round 68 Monday.
It completed a 211 8-under par victory by four strokes over Florida runner-up Sierra Brooks at the NCAA Women’s Tournament hosted by the UA at The Blessings Golf Club.
Fassi joins Lewis, the 2007 NCAA winner, as the UA’s only women national golfing champions.
Shauna Taylor noted Arkansas double-crowned royalty.
Arkansas’ head coach since 2008, Taylor as an assistant helped former Arkansas Coach Kelley Hester recruit Lewis and retains Lewis as an Arkansas volunteer coach whenever Lewis has time.
So Taylor thrilled doubly watching Fassi follow Lewis’ footsteps.
“Stacy Lewis helped put our program on the map, and Maria Fassi puts an exclamation on that,” Taylor said. “Maria has been a great teammate and great leader for us, and I’m just really proud to be able to walk down the fairway with her.”
Great as Lewis and Fassi were, they had Arkansas great predecessors. And in Lewis’ case, great successors.
El Dorado’s Amanda McCurdy was Arkansas’ women’s golf first All-American setting Lewis’ table.
Under Taylor, Kelli Shean, Emily Tubert, Gaby Lopez, 2018 senior Alana Uriell and outgoing seniors Fassi, Dylan Kim and Kaylee Benton all ascended to All-American.
As juniors, Fassi, Benton and Kim joined Uriell last year winning Arkansas’ first SEC women’s golf championship.
This week Fassi, Benton, Kim and freshman Brooke Matthews of Rogers led Arkansas’ team to fourth place for NCAA Tournament stroke play.
That top-eight finish qualified for match play and the season-ending 3-2 loss Tuesday to ultimate national runner-up Wake Forest.
A marvelous Razorbacks run for seniors Fassi, Benton and Kim, but now they move on.
Taylor won’t have to search hard for the next leader.
Rookie Matthews played veteran in her first NCAA Tournament, especially in match play. She rallied on the back nine to defeat Wake Forest’s Letizia Bagnoli 1-up.
“I’m so proud of Brooke Matthews,” Taylor said. “She was three down at one time. Brooke never lost in match play this season. You can never count her out.”
The departing queen counts on Matthews carrying on.
“I know she’s going to be a great player, and I was very lucky to be part of a team with her,” Fassi said. “I can’t wait to see all the things she accomplishes.”
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