The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Starting the Spring Strong: Commodores Finish 2nd in First Spring Tournament

After sitting in fourth place after the first day of the FAU Paradise Invitational, a Day 2 surge saw the Commodores climb the leaderboard and finish in second place overall.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt finished second at the FAU Paradise Invitational. (Vanderbilt Athletics).

The Vanderbilt women’s golf team kicked off their spring season on Monday at the FAU Paradise Invitational in Boca Raton, Florida. After a solid showing on the first day of the event, the Commodores found themselves in fourth place, trailing only Mississippi State, UTSA and Florida. On Day 2, an impressive performance saw Vanderbilt jump two of the three and finish in second place at the event, just three strokes back of first-place Florida. 

“Coming out of the Christmas break, I just never know what to expect from our young ladies… but I was really pleased with our effort,” head coach Greg Allen told The Hustler. “[It] works out pretty well when we can just go in and just be ourselves and not worry about anybody else.”

The team’s No. 1 golfer, senior Auston Kim, entered the tournament looking to build upon an excellent fall season in which she finished top five in two of her three appearances. She did exactly that, finishing 8 under par and tying for fifth at the event. Since undergoing a swing change during the pandemic, Kim has been lights-out on the links and she seems poised to continue her dominance throughout the spring season. 

“We knew she was going to be a superstar the minute she stepped on our campus, when we saw her out there playing and practicing, and she’s done that,” Allen said. “She’s swinging at it really good… I’m excited to see how she finishes off this season.”

Kim’s co-fifth-place finisher was teammate Natasha Kiel. The lone freshman on the roster, Kiel struggled out of the gate this fall, finishing 12 over par at her only tournament. Boca Raton was a completely different story, however, as she shot under par in each of her three rounds including a final round in which she posted a career-low score of 67 (5 under par). Her performance earned her SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

“[She] put in a lot of really good work over the break and has worked hard since we started practicing last month,” Allen said. “I felt like she was playing as good as any of our five girls heading down there and it was really nice to see it all come together for her.” 

While Kim and Kiel’s performances deserve recognition, finishing with the third-lowest 54-hole score in team history (26 under par) was a complete team effort. Sophomore Virginie Ding and fifth-year Louise Yu came in at 5 under and 3 under respectively, while junior Jayna Choi was able to bounce back from a difficult start and shoot par in her final round. Although the FAU Paradise Invitational does not possess the most difficult course or competition the Commodores will face this season, the consistency displayed throughout the lineup was encouraging nonetheless. 

The one missing piece at Boca Raton was star junior Celina Sattelkau, who was unable to participate for health reasons. Fortunately, it appears she will likely be back by the end of the month, just in time for the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Her return will fill out a roster that is one of the strongest Vanderbilt has had in recent memory. 

“I really like the depth of our team this year,” Allen said. “I feel like we’ve got eight girls competing for five spots and we haven’t seen that in a while.”

Taking advantage of that depth will be key to ensuring that this week’s performance is not an outlier. Coming off of a challenging fall season in which the team failed to finish top five in any of their four tournaments, the Commodores still have much to prove. However, the strong start to the spring provides the team with both optimism and a foundation for growth. 

“Anytime you shoot 26 under par and have a chance to win the golf tournament, it is a big confidence boost,” Allen said. “But it’s also a learning opportunity for our kids. Learning how to deal with some of the pressure or feelings that they had on those last couple holes as they’re trying to make some birdie putts that didn’t go in.”

With the Darius Rucker Invitational less than a month away and the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge and Clemson Invitational scheduled in March, the Commodores will have many more learning opportunities before they head to Birmingham for the SEC Championships. Still, time is of the essence, and Allen knows he has to do everything in his power to get his team in top shape by the end of the season.

“SEC and Regionals will be here before we know it,” Allen said. “So we’ll continue to work hard and put in the time and the effort that we know it takes to get to be the program that we want to be.”

The Darius Rucker Invitational will begin on February 28th.

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About the Contributor
Luke Rollfinke
Luke Rollfinke, Senior Staff Writer
Luke Rollfinke ('25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in mathematics with a minor in communications. Luke loves all things sports, so when he's not writing for The Hustler, he's probably either playing for a club or intramural Vanderbilt sports team. You can reach him at [email protected].
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