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Isabella McCauley wins Big Ten tournament on final day

The Gophers women’s golf team finished ninth overall, shooting 884 (+20) over the weekend.
Image by Brad Rempel (courtesy)
Isabella McCauley started Sunday in 18th place and shot a 64 (-8) to win the tournament.

Sophomore Isabella McCauley won Gophers women’s golf’s first Big Ten championship since 1989 on Sunday, becoming just the second golfer to achieve the feat at the University of Minnesota. 

Heading into the third and final day in Havre De Grace, Maryland, McCauley sat in 18th place and was hoping to “sneak in a top 10 finish.”

The sophomore shot a 64 (-8) off eight birdies and 10 pars, granting her a share of the Big Ten title.

Michigan’s Monet Chun posted a 66 on Saturday but a day later was defeated by McCauley, who made up the six-stroke gap on Sunday.

McCauley’s 64 on the final day was the best round by any golfer throughout the tournament.

McCauley said it is hard to verbalize the experience of growing up in Minnesota and winning the Big Ten tournament as a Gopher.

“Words can’t describe it,” McCauley said. “It’s something you definitely think about when you are eight or nine practicing, and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is to win the Big Ten championship.’”

It was a “surreal experience” for the native of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, who added that she was able to win in front of her father.

McCauley, who tied for second in last year’s tournament, said she knew the weight of the final shot as she approached it on the green.

“I’m shaking, right,” McCauley said. “I’m like, ‘Just actually make contact with the ball here.’”

Despite her status as an underclassman, McCauley is among a team filled with experience, including three graduate students.

Graduate Grace Curran played in her final Big Ten tournament on Sunday, having spent her entire five-year career at Minnesota.

“It was a really special weekend,” Curran said. “Both of my parents were there, and this has been by far my favorite group of teammates that I’ve had. We’re all super close, and it was really nice to be able to experience that one last time with them on a beautiful golf course.”

Curran shot 230 (+14) over the three days and tied for 62nd place. The Gophers, as a team, finished in ninth place, shooting 884 (+20) in the tournament.

Head coach Rhyll Brinsmead, in her fourth season at the helm, has helped the program grow and evolve during her time in Minneapolis, according to Curran.

Brinsmead said the win by McCauley means a lot to the team and the program.

“Minnesota historically hasn’t been a powerhouse within the Big Ten,” Brinsmead said. “So, to sort of have this recognition and to build the program around these seniors and around Bella coming in, it’s been pretty neat.”

Curran said Brinsmead “propelled the program to new heights,” and McCauley’s win in the Big Ten tournament is an example of that.

Seeing McCauley win the tournament for Brinsmead was “really fulfilling” as McCauley was a part of Brinsmead’s first recruiting class as the Gophers’ head coach.

Brinsmead said McCauley’s comeback from 18th to champion on the final day is the biggest one she has seen.

“Both Caroline [Craig] and Monet [Chun] are seniors and top-ranked, Bella’s ranked well, but she’s not top 10, and she held her own,” Brinsmead said.

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