The No. 5-ranked Auburn women's golf team held off a late surge from host Arkansas and Alabama to win the Southeastern Conference Championship Sunday. Senior Patricia Sanz made it an Auburn sweep, winning the individual title for the first tournament win of her collegiate career.
Conducted by the SEC and the University of Arkansas, the SEC Championship is a 54-hole stroke play tournament being played at the Blessings Golf Course. The tournament features eight teams ranked in the top 25 in the nation. The par-72 course is playing at 6,134 yards for the tournament.
"It is just amazing, we have won a few of these, but this one is one of the most important," said Auburn head coach Kim Evans. "I could not be happier for the team, they played their hearts out and never quit. On a golf course as tough as this one, that's what it took to win."
The SEC title is the ninth all-time for Auburn and the eighth for Evans. The title is Also Auburn's second in a row and third in the last four years. Sanz's individual title is the first tournament victory of her career and the sixth individual SEC title for Auburn. The last Tiger to take home the SEC title was Maria Martinez in 2006.
Auburn started the day with a one-stroke lead and finished in the same position, but not before battling it out with the Razorbacks down the stretch. The Tigers led through the first nine holes, but lost strokes on the first three holes of the back nine that allowed Arkansas to take the lead.
The host Razorbacks could not hold on to the lead, dropping 11 strokes in the final three holes, giving the Tigers the opportunity they needed to re-take the lead for good.
Playing on a difficult golf course with winds gusting into the high 20s, Evans was happy with how her team held up to the conditions.
"Everyone tells you that it is a tough golf course and you don't believe it until you get here and play it," said Evans. With the wind today, it really made it tough. I was so proud of our players for keeping their head up and taking it one hole at a time, that was so important today."
Sanz, a native of Madrid, Spain, carded a final-round 77 to finish the tournament with a 3-over 219. She played the first five holes at even-par, but a triple-bogey on No. 6 and bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8 set her back. On a day when the average score on the course was nearly an 81, Sanz re-grouped to score par or better on nine of her final 10 holes to hold on to the lead and the victory.
She finished the tournament one stroke ahead of Vanderbilt's Marina Alex (220) and two ahead of Arkansas' Emily Tubert (221).
"I could not be happier for Patti, she has worked so hard this year and to win this tournament is amazing for her," said Evans. "After a few holes on the practice round day, I pulled her aside and told her that this course really played to her style and that this was her time. She really took that to heart and had a great three days."
Sanz earns the victory after finishing no higher than a tie for 16th this season. But, the SEC Tournament has been one throughout her career that she has played well at, tying for 14th a year ago and tying for sixth as a freshman.
"I'm the happiest person in the world," said Sanz. "This came at best time, I'm a senior, our team won, I just couldn't have asked for anything better.
"To accomplish it is amazing, this is one of the most important tournaments we play all year. I've been struggling some this season and the coaches believed me. I kept reminding myself to stay positive, stay in the present and remember that this is a hard course for everyone."
The best round of the day for Auburn went to freshman Victoria Trapani as she closed out her first SEC Tournament with a 2-over 74 to finish the event tied for eighth at 13-over 229, moving up 14 spots on the day. It is the best finish for an Auburn freshman since Sanz tied for sixth in 2009.
Junior Carlie Yadloczky also finished in the top 20, carding a final-round 82 to tie for 17th with 16-over 232. It is the second top-20 finish of her career at SECs after tying for 19th a year ago.
Rounding out the lineup were senior Haley Wilson and sophomore Marta Sanz, both carding 9-over 81s. Wilson finished the tournament in a tie for 36th with a 24-over 240 while Sanz tied for 39th with a 26-over 242. As part of her up-and-down day, Sanz also carded an eagle on No. 9, giving Auburn three of the five eagles made on the course the entire tournament.
In the team race, it was Auburn, Arkansas and Alabama at the top with Florida (925) and Georgia (933) rounding out the top five. South Carolina (936) moved into sixth, followed by LSU (937), Vanderbilt (940), Kentucky (946) and Ole Miss (950) in 10th. Tennessee (951) finished 11th while Mississippi State (974) took 12th.
Individually, Sanz, Alex and Tubert were at the top with LSU's Madelene Sagstrom in fourth with a 7-over 223 and Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora in fifth with a 10-over 226. Camilla Hedberg (Florida) and Emma Lavy (Arkansas) tied for sixth with 12-over 228s while Jennifer Kirby (Alabama), Rocio Sanchez Lobato (Georgia), Lauren Stratton (Vanderbilt) and Trapani (Auburn) tied for eighth with 13-over 229s.
Auburn will return to the golf course May 3-5 at the NCAA Regional Championships. The NCAA Regional selection announcement is set for Monday, April 30.