Wake Forest freshman Rachel Kuehn failed to qualify for the Demon Deacons’ season opener last week at the Cougar Classic. But she earned her way into the lineup for the team’s second event, the Annika Intercollegiate – and she won.
The Asheville, N.C., native shot 3-under 69 Wednesday to put the finishing touches on a wire-to-wire, five-shot victory at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn. Kuehn finished the 54-hole event, which featured six of last year’s NCAA quarterfinalists, at a program-freshman-record 13 under to lead Wake, last year’s national runner-up, to the team title.
Kuehn is the first player in school history to win in her first start, and she also joined her mother, former Wake All-American Brenda Corrie Kuehn, as the Demon Deacons’ first mother-daughter winning duo.
“This victory was an unbelievable finish with such a strong field,” Wake coach Kim Lewellen said. “The conditions were tough, and these young ladies played outstanding. It's an incredible feeling as a coach to know that every one of your players is capable of winning an individual title, and they can come together as a unit to win as a team. This is a special group.”
The Demon Deacons, who lost All-American Jennifer Kupcho to graduation, shot 5 under in the final round to finish at 17 under, 14 shots better than runner-up Arkansas, which also had its best player from a season ago, two-time Annika Award winner Maria Fassi, graduate.
Wake placed two other players in the top 10 behind Kuehn, No. 575 in the WAGR. Siyun Liu finished solo fifth at 4 under while another freshman, Lauren Walsh, tied for fifth at 3 under. The Demon Deacons’ only returning first-team All-America, Emilia Migliaccio, shared 19th to follow her third-place showing at the Cougar, where Wake placed second as a team. Walsh tied for seventh in that event and now has two top 10s this season.
The Razorbacks, who returned just one player from last year’s team that made NCAA match play, were led by freshman Kajal Mistry from South Africa. Mistry was solo fourth at 5 under, two shots back of third-place Kaitlyn Papp of Texas and three behind runner-up Vivian Hou of Arizona.
Texas (2 under) placed third as the only other team under par while Arizona State (1 over) and USC (2 over) rounded out the top 5. The Trojans, who dropped three spots on the leaderboard Wednesday, were led by Aiko Leong (T-6), a senior who transferred from BYU before her junior year and posted a 77.07 scoring average in just 14 rounds last season.
Reigning NCAA champion Duke finished ninth out of 12 teams. Three players, including first-team All-American Jaravee Boonchant, finished outside the top 40 for the Blue Devils.