Auburn places fifth to secure spot at NCAA Championships


When junior Elena Hualde Zúñiga lined up her bogey putt on 18, Auburn’s spot in the NCAA Championships was already secure. But that didn’t stop her teammates from rushing to celebrate with her when she made the putt. There was also a loud cheer from the pro-Auburn crowd that had gathered around.

The Tigers had officially clinched their spot at nationals for the 18th time in program history.

“That was the best feeling I could ask for,” Hualde Zúñiga said. “Being the last one to hug all my teammates waiting for me up there. Even though it was not a good hole for me, all that counts is that we made it into the top six.”

“I’m so impressed with those young ladies,” added Auburn head coach Melissa Luellen. “There was a lot of pressure. There was a lot of pressure playing at home. Elena, especially, loves to play to a crowd. She was asking me, ‘Are there going to be more people out here today?’ Just to have the support of our Auburn people, it was just a really great theater to finish in.”

Entering Wednesday’s third round in a tie for sixth, Auburn saved its best day for last at the NCAA Auburn Regional with a 285 (-3) that included 14 birdies as a team. The Tigers moved up to finish 5th overall and were one of six teams to advance.

Five of those 14 birdies came from Hualde Zúñiga who once again shot the low round of the day for Auburn with a 69 (-3) on Wednesday. The junior finished tied for 8th on the individual leaderboard at 3 under for the tournament.

“I’m so happy,” Hualde Zúñiga said. “It’s been a rough season (for me). Now wrapping up with this round at regionals, hopefully this (carries over) to nationals.”

Sophomores Kaleigh Telfer and Mychael O’Berry also finished in the red Wednesday as each carded a 1-under 71 in the final round. Telfer wrapped up the tournament in a tie for 17th while O’Berry, the team leader after the first day, tied for 33rd overall.

Freshman Brooke Sansom also tied for 33rd after shooting a 75 (+3) on Wednesday, and sophomore Julie McCarthy rounded out the Auburn contingent with a 74 (+2) in the final round to finish in a tie for 51st.

Vanderbilt won the event at 4-under (860) and will be joined at the NCAA Championships by Florida State (863), Duke (868), Virginia (873), Auburn (874) and Tennessee (876). Three individuals — Linette Holmslykke (Murray State), Virunpat Olankitkunchai (Maryland) and Angelica Moresco (Alabama) — will also advance.

The NCAA Championships will begin Friday, May 17 from The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Team Standings

1. Vanderbilt — 860 (-4)

2. Florida State — 863 (-1)

3. Duke — 868 (+4)

4. Virginia — 873 (+9)

5. Auburn — 874 (+10)

6. Tennessee — 876 (+12)

7. Maryland — 879 (+15)

8. East Carolina — 881 (+17)

9. Furman — 886 (+22)

10. Alabama — 895 (+31)

11. Houston — 898 (+34)

12. California — 900 (+36)

13. Clemson — 904 (+40)

14. Kennesaw State — 905 (+41)

15. Denver — 909 (+45)

16. South Alabama — 910 (+46)

17. Murray State — 916 (+52)

18. Albany — 917 (+53)

Auburn Individuals

T8. Elena Hualde Zúñiga – 75, 71, 69 (-1)

T17. Kaleigh Telfer – 75, 72, 71 (+2)

T33. Mychael O’Berry – 74, 77, 71 (+6)

T33. Brooke Sansom – 75, 72, 75 (+6)

T51. Julie McCarthy – 76, 75, 74 (+9)

Categories: Alabama Sports