The stage was set in Birmingham, Alabama, and the 14 teams were all competing for the Southeastern Conference title in women’s golf from April 18-22.
It was the last day of match play, and it came down to two teams: the Arkansas Razorbacks and the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Hogs won the battle, 3-2.
Head-to-head play was coming to a close, and junior Kaylee Benton was ready to claim the title for her team. She took a deep breath and two-putted to secure the team’s first SEC title in school history.
The final moments on the course were followed by hugs and tear-filled eyes with the team knowing it, yet again, had accomplished something that had never been done in UofA women’s golf history.
Junior Maria Fassi credits the people throughout the program who come in everyday ready to prepare for success.
“What we do on a daily basis is more than what any other team does,” Fassi said. “We train to be the best team in the nation, and we push each other to be our greatest self.”
Razorback coach Shauna Taylor was elated when the final putt went in.
“‘Finally’ was the one word that came to mind,” Taylor said. “It’s finally hard work that has paid off. The girls executed exactly like we prepared. The satisfaction of seeing that group of girls do something that has never been done in program history is something I will never forget.”
For the SEC championship this year, the format of play differed. The Hogs played a total of five days. The first three days consisted of regular play for the Razorbacks, and they ended up third, three strokes behind Alabama and and eight strokes behind South Carolina.
After stroke play, the teams were divided into a tournament-like bracket and competed in match play, where either a team or individual gains a point for each hole in which they have bettered their opponents.
The Hogs then went on to defeat No. 14 Florida, 3-2, and No. 2 Alabama, 3-1-1, on day one and defeated the No. 6 South Carolina on the last day of play.
Even though style of play changed, the Razorbacks proved the format of play did not hinder their focus.
“Overall, I say it takes a village to do great things,” Taylor said. “Everybody did a fantastic job contributing and helping to clinch our first ever championship.”
Senior Alana Uriell, who finished 15th overall in stroke play, thinks the team’s dedication to the process helped them focus and prevail during the conference tournament, she said.
“We've worked hard all year, waking up early and putting extra hours into golf,” Uriell said. “It has truly been a fun and exciting experience to finally win it for Arkansas. I couldn't have asked for a better way to finish off my senior year.”
Next up, the team will wait to see where it land for NCAA Regionals.
The selection show will air Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Regional sites include the University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wisconsin, the Stanford Golf Course in San Francisco, the SouthWood Golf Course in Tallahassee, Florida, and the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, Texas.