The Bruins finished off the fall season with their best result yet.
No. 20 UCLA women’s golf shot a 17-under 859 to clinch second place at the Nanea Pac-12 Preview in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, which ran from Monday through Wednesday. The Bruins had a chance at a first-place finish, heading into day three with a 2-stroke lead, but shot four strokes worse than No. 8 Arizona in the final round and dropped into second.
Even without the top spot, the tournament marked UCLA’s highest finish of the fall, after the Bruins previously placed 10th, third and seventh. For the first time this season, UCLA placed higher than No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 5 USC, and No. 15 Oregon.
Freshman Ty Akabane and Hawaii native senior Mariel Galdiano both shot 7-under 212s to tie for second-best in the tournament. Akabane said she ended her season on a high note scoring a 4-under 69 in her final round, birdieing two of her last four holes.
“It was a little bit slow at the beginning (Wednesday),” Akabane said. “I was at 2-under for a little bit, then 3-under, and then I made a silly bogey. I was fired up to make more birdies so I made few birdies on my last few holes coming down the stretch.”
Before her 7-under 212 at the Nanea Golf Club, Akabane had shot a plus-22 at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, a plus-6 at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, and a minus-1 at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Coach Carrie Forsyth said the freshman’s progression over the season gave was a promising sign.
“(The first tournament) exposed some weaknesses, but (Akabane has) worked hard to be better in those areas, and it’s showing,” Forsyth said. “I know what she’s capable of.”
While Akabane climbed five spots on the final day, Galdiano entered day three in second and finished in second, rounding out her consistent tournament. She shot a minus-3 on day two, sandwiched between two minus-2s.
“I felt the best (on day two) – I shot 3-under, I was putting it well, and feeling the stroke,” Galdiano said. “(Day two) was the most fun for me.”
Despite the 7-under final, the senior said she can do better. On the first two days, she birdied three times on each back nine, but did so only once Wednesday.
“(The final day) was a little more frustrating,” Galdiano said. “I could have made more birdies, but the feel with my putter wasn’t as good as yesterday.”
Akabane and Galdiano led the way for UCLA with freshman Emma Spitz finishing tied for seventh, scoring a 4-under 215. Spitz was tied for second after two days, but a plus-1 on the final day pushed her out of the top five.
The tournament was the first time this season the freshman wasn’t the Bruins’ top finisher, but Forsyth said she remains optimistic about Spitz going into the spring.
“I couldn’t ask for more in a freshman,” Forsyth said. “(Spitz) doesn’t act like a freshman, she doesn’t play like a freshman and I’m just really pleased that she had a good start to her career.”
Behind Spitz came senior Clare Legaspi and freshman Annabel Wilson with a 3-over 222 and a 4-over 223, respectively. Legaspi shot minus-1 on the first day but couldn’t recover from a plus-3 on day two.
Wilson scored the team’s lone eagle of the tournament with a hole-in-one on the eighth hole on day one, but finished the round even.
The Bruins now have just over two months until they are back in action Jan. 26 for the Tri-Match in the Desert versus Arizona State and Denver.
“I wish we actually had more time (in the fall season),” Forsyth said. “We’ve made really good progress in the last few weeks, everybody’s been really open to working on things, trying to improve their skills. We’re going to have to carry that over the holidays – we don’t want to have to start all over again (in the spring).”