The University of Montana women’s golf team ended play Tuesday in the South Florida Waterlefe Invitational, jumping No. 48 Colorado State to finish as the tenth of 19 teams. UM senior and Billings native Rose Stepanek scored a hole-in-one on her final hole of the tournament.
The Montana team recovered from a season-high team round of 330 in Monday’s second round to climb from a tie for 13th to tenth with a final round of 304.
Following play Tuesday, 15th-year UM coach Joanne Steele said, “With three rounds of 305, as we averaged in our first and final rounds, we would have been top-five, it was just a case of our effort yesterday, where we ‘shot ourselves in the foot,’ so-to-speak. The girls definitely came out with something to prove today.”
Junior Lauren Howell was the low Grizzly for the tournament, moving from tenth in the first round to 11th after the second, and improving to a tie for sixth overall with Tuesday’s final. Howell’s one-under performance Tuesday tied for the lowest round of the day.
Howell said, “I was putting very well today from the beginning. Things were just rolling for me though the entire round.
“Yesterday, the wind picked up through the second round and the entire team suffered. Our confidence took a hit and the afternoon just didn’t go well for any one of us. Before we started today, Joanne said that we were the best team that she’s coached, and that we needed to believe that in order to succeed. We came back with our confidence up.”
Howell’s consistency was not unique to Tuesday. Wednesday she scored a hefty bogey on the par 4 seventh hole, handing in a nine for the effort. Steele said, “Lauren had a great tournament. When you finish just six over par and five of those strokes came from a single hole, you can’t be too upset with yourself.”
The Montana team effort was six strokes better than last year’s score, when the Grizzlies finished 14th. Howell’s carding of of 222 topped the 2009 tournament-low Grizzly score by 11 strokes.
Stepanek, who finished in a tie for 73rd in the 103-athlete event, brought in an ace in her final hole of competition. The feat occurred in the 170-yard 11th hole. Steele said, “Rose was just keeping her mind on finishing her best possible and the final drive just bounced in.”
The effort was the ninth like collegiate performance of the season reported to golfstat.com, the collegiate golf authority. The shot was also the longest hole-in-one recorded yet this season by five yards.
UM golf will head to Daytona following a mandatory rest day to take a practice round at the Daytona LPGA International course Thursday. The tournament will feature three single-round days from Friday to Sunday.