Idaho freshman Cassie McKinley finished in a tie for eighth to help the Idaho women’s golf team finish in sixth place on Tuesday at the Challenge at Onion Creek in Austin, Texas.
Mckinley was in 24th place after shooting a 75 in the first round and a 73 in the second, but shot a career-best two-under 68 in the third to propel her into eighth place overall.
Idaho coach Lisa Johnson said it was good to see McKinley have a breakout day like she did.
“She’s greatly improved her chipping and has worked a lot on her swing in the offseason,” Johnson said. “She’s really been working extra hard, putting in extra time working on her mental game to get back to playing like she did in the fall and she really got it going this week.”
The Vandals have a young team this season with only one senior and one junior on their roster. Johnson said she’s happy with the way the underclassmen on her team have come out and played.
“The freshmen have made significant improvement from fall to spring,” Johnson said. “Their ball-striking is more consistent. They’re managing their games better. I’m excited for the rest of the year.”
Gonzaga won the tournament, led by Han Wu, who tied for the individual medal with Krista Puisite from Texas State, the second-place team finisher. Kennesaw State rounded out the top thee, coming in third.
The Vandals had three players in the top 15, with McKinley at eighth, and junior Rachel Choi and freshman Kristin Strankman tying for No. 15 with a 219. Sophomore Leilanie Kim tied for 41st at 229 and sophomore Kaitlyn Oster tied for 53rd with a 234 to round out the Vandals.
Johnson said she was pleased with her team’s performance.
“Overall, we played well,” Johnson said. “We’re still leaving more shots out on the course than I would like but we have improved tremendously over the last few weeks.”
Idaho tied for eighth the last time out at the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational in Honolulu and No. 12 the time before that at the Inkster Spartan Invitational in San Jose. Johnson said her team has shown a lot of improvement this spring.
“I’m extremely pleased with how well we’re progressing,” Johnson said. “We’re working on improving every week. We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of, but we’re getting closer to where we want to be.”
The Vandals have just one more tournament before the WAC Championships. Idaho will travel to Fresno for the Fresno State Lexus Classic on April 15. The WAC Championships will be April 22-24 in Phoenix, Ariz.
Kevin Bingaman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org