Women’s Golf: Vanderbilt opens spring season with top-3 finish in Florida

Greg Allen discusses the team’s first performance and Auston Kim’s return.

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Auston Kim hits her approach shot on the first hole during the first round at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club (Jackrabbit Course) in Houston, Texas on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (©USGA/Chris Keane)

Jaime Perez, Staff Writer

The Vanderbilt women’s golf team opened its spring season at the FAU Paradise Invitational on Monday and Tuesday, playing 54 holes in two days. 

The Commodores finished the tournament at -4, good for third place as a team just two strokes behind the winner, Michigan State.

In their best result of the season, the squad was boosted by the return of All-American Auston Kim, who had opted out of the fall season.

“It felt really good to be back out there after a three month break,” head coach Greg Allen said. “And it was really great to have Auston back in the lineup.”

Kim was solid in her return, placing eighth in the tournament’s field and second on the team after shooting one-under par for the event. 

The squad’s top player in Boca Raton, Florida, was sophomore Celina Sattelkau, who shot -3 and was tied for third individually by the end of the invitational. Sattelkau’s strong play throughout the fall semester carried over, and she has finished first or second amongst Vanderbilt players in every event she has competed in this season. 

Sophomore Jayna Choi shot three-over par, while fellow sophomore Tess Davenport and senior Louise Yu both completed the event at +5. Every Commodore placed in the tournament’s top 22 of 68 golfers.

“I feel like we have a pretty deep roster right now, and it’s really fun and exciting to see so many girls have a chance to make the lineup this year,” Coach Allen said.

Because of the invitational’s COVID restrictions, all five players played as one group that stayed together throughout the entirety of the event, giving the coaches a rare opportunity to track every player. 

“It was good to be able to see all five girls hit every single shot,” Coach Allen said. 

Heading into the final round, the Commodores were one stroke off the lead through the first 36 holes, before struggling down the stretch and shooting their worst round of the tournament on Tuesday.

“We had so many good looks for birdie [and] didn’t capitalize on many of them,” Allen said. 

Despite the disappointing conclusion, Coach Allen was proud of the team for entering the final hole with a chance to finish first.

“We definitely got a lot of room for improvement, but it was good being in the hunt coming down the stretch yesterday,” he said.

For the women’s golf program, this spring season will be a gauntlet. The team will play four events in the next seven weeks before the SEC Championship.

Coach Allen expects to face much stronger competition in the next few tournaments, and he hopes that his team can stay both “mentally prepared [and] physically prepared.”

He believes that if the team plays hard and with the right attitude, they have the ability to make some noise this spring.

“If we can get momentum,” Coach Allen said, “I think we got a chance to do some pretty neat things coming down the stretch in April and May.”

The women’s golf team’s next event will be the Lady Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Florida, from Feb. 21 to Feb. 23.