BATON ROUGE, La. — No. 14 Tennessee clinched its first tournament title of the season on Sunday, recording a final round 5-over-par 293 to win the LSU Tiger Golf Classic by two strokes at the University Club.
Junior All-American Erica Popson tied for the individual title with North Carolina’s Catherine O’Donnell as both golfers carded a two-under score of 214 for 54-holes.
Due to team travel constraints, a playoff was not conducted to declare an overall individual champion.
Popson carded scores of 75-70 and a three-under 69 in the final round to lead the Lady Vols to the top of the leaderboard.
“Today was awesome,” Popson said. “My game really felt great the past two days. I made some mistakes but overall I played pretty solid. I really putted well yesterday and today. It feels amazing to get this win after my surgery.”
Her teammates weren’t far behind as Nathalie Mansson turned in a one-over 73 on Sunday to finish tied for seventh (76-73-73) while rookie A.J. Newell (76-73-75) and junior Sara Monberg (73-73-78) tied for 10th place.
On Sunday, Popson started out strong picking up four birdies on the front nine against just one bogey. The back nine was a little more troublesome as she collected three birdies on 12, 14 and 17 while taking a bogey on 10 and a double on the par-3 16th. She held on to birdie 17 and dropped in par on 18 to tie for the individual championship.
Tennessee’s rounds of 298-289-293-880 pushed it past second-place and host LSU (882) and third-place No. 11-ranked North Carolina (889) on the par-72, 6,305-yard course.
UT was within three strokes of No.5-ranked LSU on Friday, tied the Tigers for the lead on Saturday and took home the trophy on Sunday.
“We played really well this weekend,” Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. “All of the players had strong individual goals and did a great job of being competitive and focusing on one shot at a time.
“LSU is a strong team and to battle it out with them for two rounds and come away with a win was really great for our program,” continued Pavon.
“This week was a total team effort with all five players finishing in the top 16 and four in the top 10. Everyone stayed tough and focused on the last couple of holes and it ended up being the difference.”
The Lady Vols opened the tournament by shooting a 10-over par 298 on Friday. Monberg fired the team’s best round with a one-over 73. The Juelesminde, Denmark, native was tied for seventh in the field and was just three strokes behind the leader in Marina Alex of Vanderbilt. Monberg recorded par on 15 holes, using a birdie along with two bogeys to card her one-over tally on the day.
One shot behind Monberg in the standings was sophomore Rohrback, who carded a two-over 74 and was tied for eleventh and recorded four birdies through the first round of the tournament.
Popson recorded two birdies for UT on the day, shooting a 75 in the Classic’s opening day. After a bogey on the first hole, she responded with a birdie to pull back to even en route to a three-over tally for the round.
Mansson and Newell each finished round one with 4-over 76s.
On Saturday, the Lady Vols set the stage for championship finish. Led by Popson’s 2-under 70, UT tied for the lead with LSU (295-292=587) after the Big Orange fired a one-over 289 – their lowest round of the spring for a two-day total of 587. No. 11 North Carolina (301-300=601) and No. 6 Vanderbilt (302-299=601) were tied for third place heading into Sunday.
In her first round under par since returning from surgery, Popson carded four birdies on the back nine in addition to one on the front side en route to her seventh par or better round of the season. Popson’s Saturday outing tied her for fourth with Vanderbilt’s Marina Alex at one-over (145).
Tennessee turned in three rounds of 73 from Mansson, Monberg and Newell. Monberg recorded three birdies and an eagle while Mansson had three birdies on the day. Monberg used her round two performance to move up a slot on the leaderboard, tying for sixth through 36 holes.
Rohrback put up three birdies on the front nine, making the turn two under par, but could not complete the round under par, coming in at +4 on the day.
This marks Tennessee’s 23rd all-time tournament win and first of 2011-12.