Freshman Patty Tavatanakit trailed by three strokes with two holes to go.
Tavatanakit promptly made back-to-back birdies to close her tournament Tuesday, surging into a tie atop the leaderboard at 8-under par for her second individual victory as a Bruin.
“I knew I could have a chance because anything could happen,” Tavatanakit said. “Making a birdie on 17 was definitely a turning point. … (Then) I hit it onto the green in 2 (shots) on the last hole … so I kind of had hope on the last putt.”
No. 2 UCLA women’s golf couldn’t quite equal Tavatanakit’s success, finishing tied for third at the 17-team Silverado Showdown in Napa, California, 11 shots shy of No. 5 USC’s winning mark. Though it was the Bruins’ first finish outside the top two at a full stroke-play tournament this year, the performance also completed a regular season in which they never placed outside the top five.
Junior Lilia Vu, who was named Pac-12 Golfer of the Month for both February and March, also completed her regular season with another top-five result. She said her putting improved in the final round, helping her notch six birdies and finish tied for fifth at 3-under par.
Vu and Tavatanakit combined for 10 birdies and only two bogeys Tuesday. Tavatanakit was under par in each round of the tournament and had no bogeys in round three.
“Going to the green, a lot of my shots were really good,” Tavatanakit said. “But I didn’t really seem to convert them that well today until (hole) 17.”
Though Vu and Tavatanakit were both under par, the other three UCLA golfers combined to shoot 44-over par for the tournament.
“We just weren’t at our best this week as a team,” said coach Carrie Forsyth. “Some of it you can just chalk up to a one-time thing, but we definitely feel like we’ve got things we need to sharpen up … in order to get ready and really be at our best at the conference championships.”
Each of this tournament’s top-five teams – the other four all shot equal or better than the Bruins – hails from the Pac-12. Forsyth said she expects a hard-fought conference championship when the teams face off in a little under two weeks.
“We have the best conference in the country,” Forsyth said. “Every year is a battle. Every year it could be a different team that gets the job done.”
Last year it was UCLA that won the Pac-12 and Vu who took home the individual title. This year, the Bruins will enter the conference championship riding on a victory from one of their newcomers.
“I’m really excited for (the Pac-12 championship),” Tavatanakit said. “It’s another big event for us. … I hope that we get a good finish there and hopefully win.”
UCLA will begin the defense of its Pac-12 title in Seattle, Washington, on April 22.