September 19, 2023 - 11:11 am
Updated September 19, 2023 - 1:18 pm
There were plenty of unknowns as the UNLV women’s golf team took the course for their first event of the season last week. But they left New Mexico feeling pretty good about how they fared, particularly junior McKenzi Hall.
Hall was co-medalist at the Dick Maguire Invitational, the first win of her collegiate career. And it came after she matched the lowest round in program history, an 8-under 64, during the second round at the University of New Mexico Championship course.
This was the third year Hall has played in the Maguire on a course she has grown to love. She is particularly fond of the greens, which isn’t surprising given the way she putted during her second-round 64.
“I was really, really confident on the greens. I really like their speed. Everything just kind of suits me,” Hall said a few days after her accomplishment had set in. “I knew if my ball striking wasn’t as good, I was able to make up for it on the greens.”
Ball striking is not something Hall usually has to worry about, according to Rebels coach Amy Bush-Herzer.
“She doesn’t make big numbers, and she knows how far her golf balls are flying,” Bush-Herzer said. “She has an overall knowledge and great knowledge of her game, which it takes to be good at this level.”
She said Hall is particularly good from 140 to 170 yards.
“I wouldn’t challenge her to a closest to the pin competition from that distance, because she will win every time,” Bush-Herzer said.
Hall credited her experience in college golf for helping get her to the record round, and then come back the next day to battle to the finish. “I’m just a lot more comfortable out here,” she said.
Elizabeth Prior is the only other Rebel to shoot 64 in competition, having done it at Boulder Creek in 2106.
“It’s really cool to have tied that,” said Hall, who does have a 63 to her credit in a practice round, but it came on a par-70 layout, making the 8-under 64 her all-time best.
Hall’s victory, along with UNLV finishing fourth in a strong 16-team field, gives Bush-Herzer hope that something special could be building this year. The Rebels also feature Thienna Huynh, a quarterfinalist at this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, and experienced sisters Maria Fernanda Martinez and Maria Jose Martinez, graduate students who transferred from Oklahoma and Houston, respectively.
“I knew on paper we’d be pretty good,” Bush-Herzer said. “It’s nice to see what we can do, and we left some shots out there. So that’s a great start.”
She also noted a niceness factor among the players and a good camaraderie already building among the players.
“We have a really good chemistry,” Hall said. “We all bond together really well.”
The strong opening tournament is also a good start for Hall, who will be counted on as one of the team leaders this year
“I think she’s just quietly been handling her business behind the scenes and guiding this team, so she’s ready for it,” Bush-Herzer said.
The team is off until Oct. 6, when it begins the three-day Ron Moore Intercollegiate in Highlands Ranch outside of Denver.
Junior Solheim Cup
The U.S. had a rough time at the Junior Solheim Cup in Andalucia, Spain, falling 14-10 to Europe, but Henderson’s Yana Wilson more than did her part.
Wilson went 2-0-1 in her three matches, including a 1-up win over Switzerland’s Yani Beeli on Tuesday. She also teamed with Gianna Clemente for a four-ball win on Monday afternoon and halved her Monday morning foursomes with Jasmine Koo. That half-point was all the U.S. earned in the opening round as they fell into a 5.5-0.5 hole from which they never recovered.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.