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Women’s Golf: ‘Cats finish fourth at the UCF Challenge

Northwestern progressively improved throughout the three rounds, starting 2024 off with a strong tournament.

Northwestern Athletics

After a successful fall season, Northwestern traveled to Orlando, Florida to play its first tournament of the new year. The team continued its solid play with a tie for fourth-place.

The ‘Cats began the tournament with a collective 2-over par 290 and were tied for seventh after the team’s opening 18 holes. Senior Jennifer Cai, the only player to shoot under par for NU on day one, finished the round at 2-under, and senior Jieni Li also posted an even-par round of 72.

Heading into round two, Northwestern was 11 shots back of first-place North Carolina, but the ‘Cats picked up their play in the middle round of the tournament, improving their score by six shots. The five players combined for 15 birdies and one eagle. First-year Ashley Yun had the best day of any NU player in the middle round, shooting a 69, and junior Lauryn Nguyen also shot under par, moving the Wildcats up into a tie for fifth place.

Going into the final round, the ‘Cats were 15 shots out of first; however, they had a good opportunity to move up the leaderboard. The team had its best 18 holes of the tournament, shooting a 6-under par. Li had a terrific day and led Northwestern with a 4-under performance, and Nguyen contributed a 69. With these stellar rounds, NU moved into a tie for fourth to close out the tournament.

For the individuals, Li had a phenomenal three rounds and led NU at 4-under par, finishing in a tie for 12th. In her first round, Li made birdies on the par-5 13th and 16th holes to shoot even par. She continued her consistent play with another even-par round that included three birdies. Li’s final round was her best of the three. She made a remarkable seven birdies, birdieing three par-fives, three par-fours and one par-three. Li closed out her round with three straight birdies to leap into the top 15.

Nguyen also had a fantastic tournament, finishing 3-under par. Nguyen opened the tournament with a 73, but she made two birdies to start her day and rolled in a total of four in round one. In her second 18 holes, she sank three birdies in a row and finished 1-under par. To close out the weekend, Nguyen made three birdies to shoot 3-under. Her highlight of the day was hole-in-one from 182 yards on the 11th hole, and she placed in a tie for 14th.

Along with Nguyen, Cai also concluded her impressive 54 holes tied for 14th. Cai’s best round was when she posted a 70 in the opening round — making five birdies. Cai carded an even-par 72 for her second round, and in the final round, she shot 1-under with four birdies.

Yun and sophomore Jiayi Wang also competed in the tournament with Yun finishing in a tie for 45th and Wang placing 89th. Yun’s best round came in her second 18 holes, posting a 69. She made four birdies in round two and had back-to-back birdies on holes 16 and 17. Wang started off the tournament with her best round, shooting 3-over 75.

The ‘Cats will be back in action in two weeks when they participate in the Moon Golf Invitational. The tournament will be hosted from Feb. 18-20 by Louisville but played in Melbourne, Florida. Northwestern has finished in the top-four in its last four tournaments and will look to continue its momentum in the Sunshine State.