Women’s Golf: Vanderbilt finishes fourth in Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic; Greg Allen recaps fall season

Vanderbilt women’s golf played in its final tournament of the fall season—the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic—and placed fourth. Head coach Greg Allen caught up with The Hustler to recap the tournament and the fall season.


Virginie Ding competing in a high school tournament prior to her commitment to Vanderbilt. (Twitter/JGTA)

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Vanderbilt women’s golf competed in the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic from Nov. 6-8, the team’s third and final tournament of the 2020 fall season, where they placed fourth out of 12 competing Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools.

The Commodores were paced by freshman Virginie Ding, who tied for fourth in the individual pool with an aggregate score of one-under par.

“Ding, we saw her play well at the Blessings, too,” head coach Greg Allen said. “It’s funny because I was texting with Auston Kim, who was our first All-American since 2014 a few years ago, about how good Ding was going to be for us. I told her, ‘This kid can play.’ And surely enough, I was able to text Auston, ‘I told you so,” when Ding had a bogey-free 67 on the second day.”

Sophomore Celina Sattelkau also had an impressive outing for the Commodores, finishing tied for 13th at three-over par.

“I’m excited about both [Ding and Sattelkau],” Allen said. “We didn’t get to see much of Celina last year as a freshman—she played in two tournaments for us—but when the coronavirus hit, her season was cut short. That said, we could not be more pleased with how much she improved over the summer.”

Vanderbilt hardly looked like a fourth-place team in this tournament. In fact, through the first two days of the weekend, they looked to have a chance at winning the team field. Their hot start at the University of Georgia Golf Course saw the Commodores finish both the first and second days of the tournament in second place; on Friday, Nov. 6, seniors Louise Yu and Morgan Baxendale both propelled the team by shooting a 72, while their second-day effort was made possible by Ding’s 67, the lowest single-day score of all competing Vanderbilt golfers.

But on the third day, the Commodores struggled to shoot birdies and dropped down the scoreboard. 

“We just didn’t make a lot of putts that day,” Allen said. “When you’re not making birdies, it’s hard to beat people. In today’s game, you’ve got to have four scores at par or better to compete and have a chance to win.”

Still, the Commodores’ fourth-place finish shows improvement from the first two tournaments of the season, where they finished ninth at both The Blessings Collegiate Invitational and The Alley at Old Waverly. While three of the schools that finished ahead of the Commodores in the previous tournaments—Ole Miss, Florida and South Carolina—were not competing in the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic, Allen still credits the Commodores for their growth. 

“The girls are maturing,” he said. “Our sophomores that are playing for us right now—they’re like freshman and a half because they didn’t get to finish last season. So they’ve really grown up quickly.”

Now that their fall season has come to a close, the Commodores look forward to their spring season, “the most competitive time of the year,”according to Allen. 

While COVID-19 could change their course, Allen said that Vanderbilt’s current plan is to compete in three tournaments in the spring: one at the University of Central Florida, one at Florida Atlantic University and their final competition at the Darius Rucker Tournament, hosted annually by South Carolina. Following the three tournaments, the Commodores plan to compete in both the regional and national tournaments, as they have in years past.

When fall turns to spring, the team will likely welcome back one of its stars in junior Auston Kim. Kim has been a consistent force for the Commodores since her arrival on campus in 2018; in her freshman campaign, she was named first team All-SEC, third team All-America (Golfweek) and ranked 45th nationally. She followed up that performance with an impressive sophomore season, during which she was named an All-America honorable mention (Golfweek).

Kim ultimately opted out of fall competition but hopes to return to West End in January.

“She has opted in for the spring, but she and her family are keeping an eye on the virus, like we all are. They’ll be cautious; she’s opted in as of now, but there’s a chance if we don’t get the cases under control, maybe that will change. But as an All-American, she really just brings unmatched skill to our team. She also takes some of the pressure off our younger girls, allowing them to excel,” Allen said.

As they prepare to turn the page on a new season, Allen just hopes his Commodores can continue maturing. 

“If they play the way they are capable of playing, and if they keep showing mental growth, they’ll make some noise in the spring.”