Arkansas’ Brooke Matthews opened the 2021 fall season in emphatic fashion with a record-setting tournament at the Cougar Classic in Hanahan, South Carolina. Matthews’ 25-under performance (64-64-63-191) was more than enough to crush the NCAA 54-hole scoring record.
The previous record was set by Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee at 19-under in 2018. In addition to the NCAA record, Matthews now owns the Arkansas 54-hole record that was previously held by Maria Fassi in the 2017-18 season (16-under). Matthews didn’t know she broke the record until the trophy presentation after the round.
“I was like, ‘oh my gosh, that's crazy.’ I couldn't believe it, I didn't know what it (the record) was. It's probably a good thing that I didn't know what it was or that it was not on my radar,” said Matthews.
The redshirt senior played nearly perfect golf over her three rounds at the Yeamans Hall Club, totaling just three bogies in the first two rounds and none in the final. She also managed to birdie or eagle 27 of 54 holes — exactly half. Her 26 birdies were 11 more than the next closest players.
“Pretty much everything to be completely honest. I was driving it really well and pretty long, so I was able to get a lot of wedges in my hands,” said Matthews. “It was kind of a combination between sticking them close and then being able to roll in some putts.”
Here’s a better look at Matthews’ scoring distribution over her three rounds:
|Holes||Score in relation to par||Average score|
|Par 3s||-4 (tied for 1st)||2.67|
|Par 4s||-15 (1st)||3.50|
|Par 5s||-6 (tied for 2nd)||4.50|
Yeamans Hall was set up just right for Matthews as she had played the course twice before. Length-wise, the Seth Raynor track was set at 6,301 yards, that combined with deep bunkering in some parts and difficult green complexes usually makes for a tough round. But, Matthews knew exactly what she was getting into.
“There's a lot of undulated greens. And so if you can get it on the right tiers, you can have some really good chances to make some putts,” said Matthews. “I was just comfortable because I played there before and I played well there before.I was just looking forward to going out and having fun.”
On the individual leaderboard, there wasn’t a single player with a chance at catching Matthews in the final round. North Carolina’s Krista Junkkari finished in second and carded a 12-under for her three rounds. To put Matthews’ staggering win into perspective, 13 strokes separated her from Junkkari in second place, that is the same difference from second to the six-way tie for 29th place at one over par.
The team leaderboard was a bit closer, Arkansas (-23) won the tournament over Baylor by just one stroke. This is the second year in a row where the Razorbacks opened a fall season with a team win.
“They (Baylor) made a bunch of birdies coming in and we weren't exactly 100% sure because all the scores come in like every three holes,” said Matthews. “But, on the 18th hole, Shauna (Taylor, head coach) made it pretty clear to me that we kind of need a birdie, and it ended up coming down to that last birdie.”
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Matthews’ performance earned her a first place finish at the Cougar Classic. It's her third collegiate win and her first since the Blessings Collegiate Invitational in October 2020.
“I think everyone should take some confidence from it, we have our home event next week at Blessings (Golf Club), which we won last year. So, we’re all excited to get back out there and try to do it again,” said Matthews.
Matthews and the Razorbacks will tee it up next at the Blessings Collegiate Invitational in Johnson, Arkansas from Monday, Oct. 4 to Wednesday, Oct. 6.