No. 9 Florida Tech wins U.S. Women's Invitational for first win since 2009
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No. 9 Florida Tech shot a school-record 299 to deplete an eight-stroke deficit and grab the program’s first victory since 2009 at the United States Women’s Invitational on Tuesday at Pine Island Country Club. The three-day total 918 (314-305-299) bested second-place Florida Southern by one stroke.
“I think we all had a good feeling we had an opportunity to win,” head coach Chris Saltmarsh said. “We were playing at a good, championship-level golf course. We talked about it earlier in the week that we really just needed to put things together, collectively for a whole tournament. We were finally able to do that [Tuesday].”
Senior Jessica Hook led the way for the Panthers, shooting 225 (77-74-74) to win the second individual title of her career. She completed the tournament with a two-over-par 74 to win by one stroke.
“It feels pretty good,” Hook said. “I played pretty well all week, but I had no idea that I was even in the running. I don’t think coach was planning on telling me until I finished. When I came in the clubhouse, I found out I was tied and thought I might be headed for a playoff. Fortunately, I was able to pull it out by a stroke.”
One stroke behind Hook was sophomore teammate Rachel Polson. She finished the tournament in a tie for second at 226 (77-75-74). Freshman Felicia Leftinger, who had her first hole-in-one Monday, also finished in the top 10 at seventh after shooting 228 (77-75-76). Sophomore Jara’ Templet rounded out the Panthers' scoring with a 243 (87-81-75).
The Panthers' last tournament win came in 2009 when FIT hosted and won the Panther Invitational. Polson has the Panthers’ only other individual victory this season, winning at the NCAA Fall Preview in the first tournament of the year.
The 299 final round was not only the best score in school history, it was the only time the program has broken the 300 mark. The previous record of 305 was tied just a day ago in the second round.
“Going out and shooting a 299 [Tuesday] was certainly the reason we were able to get the win,” Saltmarsh said. “We knew after tying the school record [Monday], we were probably going to have to break it to have a chance to win. But the bigger thing was we didn’t just break it, we broke 300. That is something that all of the best teams in the country are doing.”
The U.S. Women’s Invitational was the final event before the Panthers head to Dade City, Fla. for the Sunshine State Conference Championship on April 15-16 at Lake Jovita Country Club.
“This was a huge confidence builder for us,” Hook said. “We play in a great conference, and hopefully this pushes us up in the ranks of some of those really good teams. We have to focus on our game and play the best we can.”