When Kaleigh Telfer approached the par-5, 503-yard No. 9 hole, Auburn’s spot in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship was in danger. The senior was unfazed, though, as her 18-foot eagle putt sent Auburn to the championship.
“When I hit my drive down the fairway, I said to myself that I need to make an eagle or at least give myself a chance,” Telfer said. “I hit a perfect 5-iron just short of the pin. It rolled about 15-18 feet by. I could feel the excitement of the team and they knew I was going to make it and I knew I was going to make it. I could just see it going in. I hit a good putt and it lipped in.”
Telfer’s final round score was an even par (72), and as an individual finished tied for 16th overall as she shot a combined 218 through the three rounds (+2). Along with her eagle, she had three birdies.
“I’m always here for the team and we are obviously doing this for each other,” Telfer said. “My freshman year, I let the team down at nationals and I didn’t want that feeling again. I knew that if I made the putt, I knew that I was going to be happy and the team was going to be happy, too.”
Head coach Melissa Luellen was not surprised with Telfer’s long-range putt or her ability to answer in big-time situations.
“She (Kaleigh) just has a knack for it,” Luellen said. “She did this for us at SECs when our backs were against the wall. She just gives herself a chance and makes a lot of putts at length.”
Auburn may have punched its ticket to the NCAA Championship for the 19th time in program history, but the Tigers had to wait for the result as they were one of the first teams to finish on Wednesday.
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“I don’t have any words to describe this feeling,” Telfer said. “We had to wait a long time before we knew the result. This is obviously what we came to Auburn for, and we didn’t want to end our season at regionals.”
Heading into Wednesday, Auburn was in 12th place but saw themselves soar up the leaderboard after turning in the lowest round of the day (286, -2) at the University of Louisville Golf Club.
“This is such a nerve-wracking week, but the team came out and just decided to play great today,” Luellen said. “They were so determined and I’m just so proud of them. It was a windy, cold day and the conditions were tough, but the one to cap it off was Kaleigh’s eagle putt on the last hole to give us a chance.”
Entering Wednesday’s third and final round, fifth-year senior Elena Hualde Zúñiga motivated her teammates before taking the course.
“On the way to the course, I was just thinking about how my career could end here,” Hualde Zúñiga said. “I just told the team that we had to step it up and be our best. We had no other option because I didn’t want to end my time at Auburn here.”
Hualde Zúñiga’s final round was the Tigers’ best round of the tournament as she shot a 70 for a 2-under, which included four birdies on the day. She finished individually tied for 11th as she shot a combined 216 for an even par performance.
“I just stayed patient today,” Hualde Zúñiga said. “I was playing really well, but my birdies weren’t dropping. Finally, on the final stretch, I was able to make those putts. It was all about patience for me.”
Megan Schofill’s best performance of the week also came on Wednesday as she finished with a 71 for a 1-under performance that included four birdies. Schofill finished individually tied for 34th after shooting a combined 223.
Anna Foster came in for the final round after serving as an alternate for the first two days. She put together a 73 for a 1-over performance.
“We put Anna (Foster) in the lineup, and she started out hot,” Luellen said. “It was a magical performance for a freshman in that kind of pressure situation and I’m so proud of her.”
Rounding out the lineup for Auburn was Mychael O’Berry, who finished with a 77 for a 5-over day.
Florida State won the event at 8-over and will be joined by Texas, UCLA, Auburn, Michigan State and South Carolina in the NCAA Championship.
The NCAA Women’s Golf Championship will begin on Friday, May 21, at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
1. Florida State - 286-291-295—872 (+8)
T2. Texas – 297-287-291—875 (+11)
T2. UCLA – 291-295-289—875 (+11)
T4. AUBURN – 296-296-286—878 (+14)
T4. Michigan State – 292-293-293—878 (+14)
T6. South Carolina – 295-286-298—879 (+15) (advanced in a playoff)
T6. Arkansas – 299-282-298—879 (+15)
T8. Texas Tech – 301-288-292—881(
T8. UCF – 299-289—588 (+12)
10. Tennessee – 299-294—593 (+17)
11. Louisville – 293-289—582 (+6)
12. North Florida – 302-287—589 (+13)
13. UTSA – 303-298—601 (+25)
14. Mercer – 302-287—589 (+13)
15. College of Charleston – 305-301—606 (+30)
16. James Madison – 303-291—594 (+18)
17. Xavier – 306-299—605 (+29)
18. Fairleigh Dickinson – 314-324—638 (+62)
11. Elene Hualde – 74-72-70—216 (E)
T16. Kaleigh Telfer – 73-73-72—218 (+2)
T34. Megan Schofill – 77-75-71—223 (+7)
T45. Mychael O’Berry – 72-76-77—225 (+9)
X. Elina Sinz – 77-76-X—153 (+9)
X. Anna Foster – X-X-73—73 (+1)
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