Heading into the final round of the Big Ten Championships, the Michigan women’s golf team found itself in an unusual spot: the final pairing.
Sunday, the Wolverines, who were in third place after the first and second rounds of the tournament, were paired with first-place Northwestern and second-place Ohio State, but couldn’t sustain the success of the past two days and fell to sixth place overall. It was the first time in program history that Michigan has ever played in the final pairing on the final day.
“We’re disappointed with our day today,” said Michigan coach Jan Dowling. “But you can’t take away the fact that we got ourselves into contention, and we had a really good opportunity to win this tournament.”
Friday, the Wolverines got out to a good start behind the performances of sophomore Megan Kim and junior Grace Choi, who posted scores of 69 and 70 on the par-72 course, respectively. After the first day, Michigan was tied for third in the tournament with a team round of 285, just two strokes behind day-one leader Purdue. It was just the fifth time all season that the Wolverines had a sub-par total.
Michigan continued to build on its momentum Saturday, holding on to its third-place standing behind Kim and freshman Elodie Van Dievoet. Kim followed her opening-round score of 69 with a second-round score of 70, which put her in second place overall individually after two days. Van Dievoet recorded a 71 on the day — a career best — helping the Wolverines post a team total of even-par 288, just three strokes behind of day-two leader Northwestern.
“The team really played great the first two days to get themselves in the position to win the golf tournament,” Dowling said. “That’s our goal going into every tournament that we play in, and they did that this time.”
But third place would be as close as Michigan ever got. Despite optimism that this could be a special weekend, the shots didn’t go quite where the players wanted and the putts just weren’t falling.
Behind Choi’s final round 71, the Wolverines shot a team total 292, causing them to fall from third-place down to sixth-place, 13 strokes behind eventual champion Northwestern. Kim, who had entered the day in second place individually, shot a final-round 77 and fell all the way to a tie for 17th.
Despite the end result being far from what Michigan wanted, the tournament is a big step forward for a team that has always struggled. The three-day team total score of 865 is a program record, while Choi’s three-day one-under-par total of 215 is the first time a Michigan golfer has shot under par in the Big Ten Championships.
Though the team may look back at the final day with some ‘what if’s,’ Dowling is still excited about the future of the program.
“There are a lot of good teams in the Big Ten,” Dowling said. “When you’re competing to win a Big Ten championship, you’re typically a top-25 program, and that’s where we’re heading.”