After a rocky start to the season for the No. 20 Michigan women's golf team, its best is yet to come. Alum Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

When the No. 20 Michigan women’s golf team entered a crowded field to begin its season at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate — where 10 of its 11 opponents held spots in the top 20 — it did so coming off of its best season in program history.

The Wolverines set a goal for the week: prove to themselves that they could hang with the best of the best.

After two rounds of play, Michigan sat in striking distance at even-par. But, when all was said and done, the Wolverines came up short. They finished 16-over, good for 9th at the 54-hole event at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn. Junior Monet Chun led the team at one-under for a 9th-place individual finish.

During rounds one and two, Michigan played relatively mistake-free golf, and converted the shots it needed to, but didn’t play as well as it could.

“I wouldn’t say it was our best golf,” Michigan coach Jan Dowling said. “We left some shots out there.”

After two rounds, the team’s spirits were high.

“We were sitting even-par, nine shots back going into the final round and we hadn’t even felt really great as a team,” Dowling said. “We did feel like we were firing on all cylinders. We were excited for that final round.”

Following the conclusion of the second round, however, the Wolverines collapsed. Tied for fourth with some of the elite programs in the country in its rear-view mirror, Michigan’s engine stalled. As a team, it shot 16-over on the final day and carded six holes of double bogey or worse.

“Everyone really had a bad day at the same time,” Dowling said. “You can’t do that in any sport, and in golf it really shows up.”

The difference between the first two rounds and the third was the ability to convert the simple chances. Where everything went off without a hitch earlier in the week, it began to fall apart after Michigan began its walk down the first fairway on Wednesday morning.

“We had some unforced errors,” Dowling said. “Simple stuff, like three-putting, missing some shorter putts.”

Overall, the entire round wasn’t all bad for the Wolverines. After coming out flat at 15-over through nine, they found their footing on the back, performing consistently with their first two rounds at just one-over.

“I was pretty happy with how they rallied on the back nine,” Dowling said. “We were quite a few over after the front nine, but (senior Hailey Borja) made five birdies over her last ten holes. (Chun) had a nice top ten even though she didn’t play her best the last day, too.”

Dowling understands that the scorecard does not always tell the complete story of a round. Rather than let nine holes of sloppy play define the week, Michigan is going to focus on the positives.

“We have to be super careful with what our narrative is as a team and individually,” Dowling said. “We worked really hard after the round to really frame it in a way that’s going to help us be successful down the road.”

Dowling liked what she saw from her team throughout the week. The result may not have been what the Wolverines had hoped for, but the experience will prove valuable when the NCAA Tournament rolls around next May.

“It was evidence we could compete with the best,” Dowling said.

With a group as talented as Michigan, don’t be surprised if its name is mentioned with the best when it’s all said and done.

This summer, Chun recorded a victory at the Canadian Amateur Championship and a runner-up finish at the US Amateur. Graduate student Ashley Lau is coming off a 3rd-place finish in an Epson Tour event in Ann Arbor.

With all of their individual trophy cases full to the brim, a Big Ten Championship under their belt and a long season ahead of them, the best may be yet to come for the Wolverines.