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Sparked by Kaleigh Telfer's putting turnaround, Auburn rallies to make NCAA cut

Telfer
Auburn Athletics

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – After totaling nearly 70 putts through two rounds of the NCAA Women’s Championship, Auburn senior Kaleigh Telfer was in desperate need of some help. So, she dialed the team’s sports psychologist Saturday night, looking for any kind of inspiration to shake her flatstick woes.

The first bit of advice she received was to draw on past success, which led Telfer to pulling up on her phone a recording of the SEC Championship final telecast from last month (the Tigers won). And the final challenge before hanging up: Go out tomorrow and putt like you’re the best putter in the world.

It worked. Telfer bounced back from a 79-77 start with a third-round, 1-under 71 Sunday at Grayhawk Golf Club, needing less than 30 putts in the process.

“I think the course owed me a little bit,” Telfer said. “I made pretty much everything I looked at today.”

Telfer’s highlight on the greens came at the par-5 11th hole, where she drove it into the rough and gave herself 40 feet for birdie before draining it. The birdie was one of seven in a nine-hole stretch for Telfer, who helped spark a Tigers rally.

“She just hates to let the team down, and I think that was the hardest part for her the last couple of days,” Auburn head coach Melissa Luellen said. “She did not let the team down today.”

Freshman Anna Foster chipped in a 70 and no Auburn player shot worse than 74 as the SEC champions, who finally adjusted after seeing this course for the first time on Thursday, climbed a Sunday-best six spots on the leaderboard, sneaking into the top 15.

At 28 over, the 14th-place Tigers are only 11 shots out of the top 8. Baylor also moved inside the cut line and sits a shot ahead of Auburn. Eighth-ranked USC and 11th-ranked Georgia were among the teams eliminated on Sunday.

Two years ago at the NCAA Championship at The Blessings, Auburn went from 11th after the first round to earning the eighth seed for match play in the 54-hole, shortened stroke-play portion. It was Telfer on that Tuesday morning who made the clinching par putt for Auburn, which then won a match against top-seeded Texas before bowing out in the semifinals.

And then last week, the Tigers tied for fourth at regionals after entering the final day in 12th place. Telfer drained an 18-footer for eagle on her final hole to cap the comeback.

“We’re used to coming from behind, as bad as that sounds,” Telfer said. “But that was our whole goal today, just take it one step at a time. We just needed to make the cut today.”

Auburn knows very well what it's capable of Monday.

Telfer and her teammates decided Sunday to wear their uniforms from the SEC final – orange hats, white pants and navy polos with the Swinging Aubie logo.

With the way the Tigers played Sunday, they may need to do some laundry.