Auburn are once again atop the Southeastern Conference in women’s golf. The Tigers swept Mississippi State, 5-0-0, in Sunday’s match play final to capture the 10th conference title in program history and first under head coach Melissa Luellen.
“I’m so incredibly proud of the entire group,” Luellen said. “Our whole team, all 10 of them, were out here to support. This year has truly been a group effort, and they just had so much poise and maturity to be able to flip all those matches around. I’m just excited.”
“It feels unbelievable,” senior Kaleigh Telfer said. “This has been a goal of all of us here, and finally all the work has paid off. We’re SEC champions.”
Forrest Little’s Julie McCarthy didn’t feature in the final but she was out to support her fellow Tigers as Telfer and Megan Schofill were the first to win their matches, both winning 1-up. Telfer made a birdie putt on 18 to break the tie and secure the victory while Schofill grabbed the lead on 13 and never looked back.
Then, with Brooke Sansom, Mychael O’Berry and Elena Hualde Zuniga all leading on the final three holes, it came down to who was going to secure their match first. It was Zuniga, the only fifth-senior year on the team, who made birdie on the 16th hole to clinch a 3&2 victory. From there, the celebration was on.
“I was walking down 16, and I told Joan (Alexander) I want to know what’s going on to see how I have to act,” Zuniga said. “I knew Megan had won, Kaleigh had won and if I won the hole, it was over.”
All five players either won or finished ahead in their match when it ended. However, on the front nine it was Mississippi State who took an early lead in multiple matches before the Tigers fought back, playing as well as they had all weekend on the back nine.
“We talked about it at the beginning of the week, match play is a totally different ball game than stroke play,” Luellen said. “If you get two down, it’s not a big deal. Just stay patient and stay aggressive. And if you get two up, you better keep staying aggressive and try to win more holes.”
The victory caps a week at the SEC Championship where Auburn finished third in stroke play at 25-under and then won matches against Vanderbilt and Alabama in the quarterfinals and semifinals before taking down Mississippi State in the final.
It was the program’s 10th conference title but the first since 2012: “We’ve been working hard at it,” Telfer said. “We’ve started to believe in ourselves, and I think that’s the key. We just needed to believe. We knew we were putting in all the hard work. We just came together as a team today, and we did it.”
“It’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” added Luellen. “From Kim Hall to Andrew Pratt to all of our former players. This is the Auburn Family and the history of the program – these girls represent the Auburn golf program. We just want to do it with class and dignity and do it the right way. I’m a very proud coach.”