Cal Poly Women’s Golf secured their first title win in over a year at the UC Irvine Invitational on Oct. 23. The team set new 18, 36 and 54-hole program records in route to their four-shot victory over second place Santa Clara.
Sophomore Caroline Cantlay topped her personal 54-hole record by 18 strokes for a 10-under-par aggregate score of 206, successfully securing her first individual title at Cal Poly.
The Mustangs took control of the tournament in their first two rounds of play at the Santa Ana Country Club course. Cantlay shot rounds of 68 and 70, while freshman Vanessa Wang shot a 71 and 69. The scores of 68 and 69 were career bests for Cantlay and Wang. Senior Mallory Muehlbauer also aided in the team’s success by posting rounds of 72 and 69.
Together the Mustangs totaled a 13-under-par 563 four-person aggregate by the end of Monday evening— a new program record for 36-holes by 11 strokes.
The Mustangs’ outstanding performance in the first two rounds granted them a 12-stroke lead coming into the final round of play on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, Santa Clara threatened a comeback after a strong start while Cal Poly struggled at their first few holes.
“Santa Clara started out their third round really well and we were not so hot out of the gates, but we had a better finish to the last round,” head coach Sofie Aagaard said. “Caroline for example, she shot 5-under on the back nine which really helped us and separated us from Santa Clara just over the last three holes.”
Cantlay, who shot a 68 in her last round to secure the individual title and propel the Mustangs to victory, was just shy of matching the 54-hole individual program record, off by only six shots. She also led the field in birdies with a total of 15 and is the first Mustang to claim an individual honor since Sophie Bergland at the Bobcat Desert Invitational in April of 2017.
Together, the Mustangs’ final 56-hole aggregate was 859, surpassing the previous program best of 871 set at the Rose City Collegiate in Sept. of 2017.
Cantlay said that although she was worried she was not on her best game coming into the tournament, everything clicked once she started swinging.
“I just felt really good around the golf course and knew what my strategy was going to be, and I stuck to it,” Cantlay said. “The last day I was really nervous. Going into the first nine holes, I didn’t play all that great. Then I just relaxed and realized that I had been playing well all week. There were a lot of birdies out there for me, so I just had to relax and let them come to me, as opposed to trying to chase them.”
The record-breaking victory may have served as a bit of a surprise for the program considering just how young the team is. Of the seven-player roster, there are three freshmen and only one senior. Aagaard said she believes the future is bright for the team following the successful tournament.
“I think it was a little bit of a surprise that we played that well and broke the records from last year,” Aagaard said. “Last year, we had five seniors with four of them in the line-up, so it’s very exciting to see that the young players are filling those shoes already as freshmen and sophomores.”
The Mustangs now begin offseason practice for the winter and will return to competition in the spring for the Battle at The Rock on Feb. 11 and 12. The tournament, hosted by UC Riverside, will be played at the Oak Quarry Golf Course in Riverside, Calif.
Looking ahead, past the long break this winter, Cantlay said she is confident the team can keep a hold of the momentum they have gained.
“More than anything, [winning] motivates me to want to keep playing well,” Cantlay said. “Hopefully we can get a good start to the spring season when we get back.”