While local courses may not be opening any time soon, Minnesota's women's golf team got to escape winter — if only for a few days — to compete in their first tournament of the spring.
After defeating Michigan 7.5-6.5 in match play in Naples, Florida on Feb. 2, the Gophers returned to the Sunshine State to compete in the Moon Golf Invitational at Duran Golf Club in Melbourne, Florida. The Gophers finished in a tie for 12th at the tournament with a combined 884 (+20), which is their best result to par of the season.
"It was nice to get in some warm weather," head coach Michele Redman said. "It was a good field for us to start the spring in, and I saw a lot of improvement from the fall."
Senior Muyu Wu delivered a spectacular first round. Wu's six-under-par 66 on Monday morning tied the school's 18-hole record, and was the lowest individual round score of the tournament.
"I feel really honored. I feel like our team is good enough — everyone is good enough to shoot these numbers," Wu said.
Wu joined former players Teresa Puga and Julie Gumlia as the only Gophers golfers to shoot a 66. For Wu, that score held a lot of personal significance.
"This is my personal lowest score," Wu said. "I shot 69 three or four times and 68 once, but 66 means a lot — it's really different. I definitely have more confidence in myself. The rest of the season I'll trust myself more."
In the next two rounds, Wu continued to play well, shooting one-over-par (73) in each. Her three-round total of 212 (-4) was the lowest on the team this season. She finished tied for ninth place overall in the tournament, joining sophomore Grace Kellar as the only Minnesota golfers to post a top-10 finish this year.
"Muyu wasn't able to work as hard on her game this summer because she had an internship," Redman said. "When she was off over the break, I know she worked really hard on her game to get it back where she wanted."
Kellar, coming off a fall season in which she led the team in scoring average with a 72.92, finished second on the team with a 222 (+6). She tied for a 47th place finish among individuals in the tournament.
Sophomore Joanne Free ended the tournament with a score of 225 (+9), freshman Karen Zhang scored a 228 (+12) and sophomore Kate Lillie finished with a 229 (+13).
Freshman Alayna Eldred competed as an individual, getting to play in a tournament for the first time since the season-opening Minnesota Invitational. Eldred shot a 20-over-par (236).
Winning the tournament in their home state, University of Central Florida shot a combined 849 (-15). They used a dominant eight-under-par third-round to claim the leaderboard's top spot on Tuesday.
Louisville junior Lauren Hartlage posted the top score among individuals. All three of her rounds were under par and she finished with a 206 (-10).
Minnesota will have less than a week to travel cross-country for their next tournament. They will take part in The Gold Rush tournament in Seal Beach, California on Sunday, Feb. 24.