Sasaki, Huskies Claim Special Individual And Team Titles
FAIRFAX, Calif. – The Huskies claimed both the individual and team titles at the Juli Inkster at Meadow Club Invitational on Tuesday, giving Coach Mary Lou Mulflur and her squad a much-needed celebration.
Senior Rino Sasaki won the second tournament of her college career and the Huskies collected their first team title since the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational in October of 2018.
Tuesday's win came at the site of the Huskies last competition in 2020 before COVID-19 cancelled the rest of their season. The win was one that Mulflur will savor as she is grateful to be back on the course with her team.
"That was not lost on me, I for sure knew the situation," Mulflur said. "It's hard to believe it's been a year. I never dreamed it would take so long to get back and I don't think most people, when they left that golf course, thought anything along those lines.
"But it was fun," she continued. "It's a great venue and a really good test of golf. Conditions were not too bad today – a little cold and windy – but overall, not bad. We hadn't won in a while, so it's always a good feeling."
The Huskies led from start to finish and ended up winning the tournament by six strokes over Pac-12 rival Stanford. They entered Tuesday's final round with a 14-shot advantage and ended up shooting a 9-over 297 during the final 18 holes. Stanford was the only team to shoot under par, carding a 1-under 287, but were unable to overcome a 16-stroke deficit entering the day to the Huskies.
After Washington (12-over 876) and Stanford (18-over 882), the top-five was rounded out by San Diego State (28-over 892), San Jose State (33-over 897) and Brigham Young (36-over 900).
"It was just a total team effort," Mulflur said. "When you look at our scores, we managed everything well. If someone had a bad day, their teammate was there to pick them up. Everybody hung in there despite us struggling coming into the home stretch. We hammed and egged it if you will.
"Everybody contributed and that's fun to see."
Three Huskies finished in the top-10, led by Sasaki. She entered Tuesday's final round at the par-72, 6,157-yard course one of six players three shots behind the tournament leader, her teammate Stefanie Deng.
On Monday, Sasaki led after round one, but promptly triple bogeyed her first hole of the second round to fall out of the lead. In the past, Mulflur says Sasaki would have struggled to bounce back from such a setback, but as a senior, she is a different player.
"Two years ago, maybe even a year ago, if she would have made a triple like she did on No. 10 yesterday, I'm not sure she would have recovered to play as well as she did from there forward," Mulflur said.
"She's just really matured as a player and a person. She has gotten better at not letting things interfere with her performance and just letting go. She's gotten so much better at that, and it really shows."
The Tokyo, Japan native came out and fired a 1-under 71, one of five competitors to shoot under par on the day. Sasaki's day got off to an inauspicious start with back-to-back bogeys, but she answered with a birdie on her third hole and birdied, seven, nine and 11 to move to the top of the leaderboard. She bogeyed 11, but made up for that with a birdie on 17. Although she capped her round off by bogeying 18, she was able to stave off the competition for her first win since taking home the individual crown at the 2019 Pac-12 Preview in Kailua Kona, Hawai'i.
Sasaki finished with a three-round total of 216 (E). She was one-shot better than San Jose State's Antonia Malate (1-over 217).
Deng shot a final round 76 to finish 2-over 218 for the tournament, two-strokes behind Sasaki. Although she could not hold onto the lead she built, Mulflur had nothing but praise for her freshman, who was playing in just her fourth collegiate tournament.
"I'm super proud of her," Mulflur said. "It's good for her to be in contention. It went right down to the end. On 18 she knew she needed birdie. She gave herself a chance."
Like Sasaki, Deng came out of the gates shaky with back-to-back bogeys to start her round. She collected her only birdie on No. 9, and had a clean scorecard the rest of the way, except for three bogeys.
"It's good for her to have that experience," said Mulflur. "She'll get her share of wins. They will come."
Martha Lewis had her third-consecutive round of 73 and finished in solo seventh at 3-over 219. The highlight of her day was an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole. As a team, the Huskies were a tournament best 9-under on the par-five holes.
Brittany Kwon shot a final round 77 and notched a top-25 finish, ending up tied for 23rd at 11-over 227. She eagled the first hole of action to get her round started strong, but couldn't overcome three doubles on the day.
Camille Boyd finished one-stroke off Kwon's pace at 12-over 228. She shot a 79 on the final day of action.
The Huskies return to action April 5-7 at the Silverado Showdown in Napa, Calif.