Knoxville, Tenn. -- The No. 2-ranked Georgia women's golf team played the final nine holes of the final round at even par en route to capturing the team title at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship at the Cherokee Country Club here on Sunday.
The Bulldogs' 8-over 292 on Sunday gave them a 54-hole tally of 882, three shots better than No. 6 Purdue, which led after the first and second rounds. No. 3 Arkansas finished third at 889, followed by the Swedish National Junior Team at 892 and No. 19 Tennessee at 899.
'I've said all year that Purdue and Arkansas are the two most improved teams in the country this year,' head coach Todd McCorkle said. 'They are both legitimately top-7 or top-8 teams. To battle with them head-to-head right down the stretch and come out on top was a really good feeling.'
Georgia surged ahead of the Boilermakers just before the turn, rallying from a one-shot deficit entering the day to move to 2-up with nine holes remaining. With the tournament in the balance, junior Whitney Wade and senior Kelly Froelich played the back half of the course at 2- and 1-under, respectively, while freshman Taylor Leon was even over the same stretch. Despite the Bulldogs' solid play, Purdue regained the lead with three holes to play but was then 6-over as a team on No. 16, No. 17 and No. 18.
'We made five good solid pars on No. 18 and played No. 17 well also to finish very strong,' head coach Todd McCorkle said. 'We know what it feels like (to lose a lead late). It already happened to us this season. It's good to be on the other side this time. Arkansas really made a run at us early. They played the first couple of holes under par and those are the toughest holes on the golf course. We sort of took their punch, steadied ourselves and played well for the rest of the day.'
The Bulldogs' counting scores on Sunday were a 1-under 70 from Leon, a 72 from Wade, a 74 from freshman Mallory Hetzel and a 76 from Froelich. Freshman Alina Lee carded a 79.
Overall, Wade and Leon posted their third consecutive top-10 finishes in as many events this season. Wade was third at 3-over 216, three shots off the pace of medalist Amanda McCurdy of Arkansas. Leon was fourth at 217. Additionally, Hetzel tied for 11th at 224, Lee tied for 30th at 229 and Froelich tied for 34th at 230.
The team win was even more gratifying after Georgia posted runner-up finishes in its first two tournaments of the year.
'I think that the freshmen now have a better understanding of what college golf is all about,' McCorkle said. 'It was a maturation process that we had to go through. I knew we would have to go through it and we've gone through it probably about as well as I could have expected. I'm really happy with our team.'
The Bulldogs will return to action in two weekends when they travel to Auburn, Ala., to compete in The Derby Invitational at the Auburn University Club, Georgia's final competition of the 2005 calendar.
Swedish Jrs. 297-302-293=892
Michigan State 294-313-300=907
Kent State 296-319-299=914
Penn State 306-308-301=915
Amanda McCurdy, Arkansas 70-74-69=213
Marci Turner, Tennessee 76-71-68=215
Whitney Wade, Georgia 71-73-72=216
Taylor Leon, Georgia 73-74-70=217
Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Purdue 70-76-72=218
Anna Nordqvist, Sweden 76-72-72=220
Christel Boeljon, Purdue 76-72-73=221
Stacy Lewis, Arkansas 75-75-71=221
Anna Soderstrom, Sweden 73-79-70=222
Maggie Lester, Penn State 73-73-77=22