Junior Tara Green, who played the three-round tournament at 1-under, won the Grizzly Invitational by four shots Tuesday, and Montana claimed the team title at the first-year event by 56 strokes after shooting rounds of 290, 294 and 294.
Montana’s total of 878 was the best three-round score in program history, surpassing the previous record of 903, set at the 2012 Big Sky Conference championship, by 25 strokes.
Montana State (310-308-316–934) came in a distant second, and North Dakota (306-320-316–942) finished third.
Green, who claimed the title at the 2012 Cal State Fullerton Invitational, won her second collegiate tournament by firing rounds of 74, 68 and 70 on the 6,127-yard, par-71 course.
“I was just trying to go out and have a good third round today and make as many pars as possible, and I accomplished that,” said Green, who carded 11 pars, four birdies and three bogeys.
Green trailed UAB’s Caitlin Watts by a stroke entering Tuesday’s final round and quickly fell off the lead by two when Green bogeyed the opening hole. But back-to-back birdies on holes 5 and 6 gave Green the lead for good, and she played the back nine at even par to hold her advantage.
“I honestly wasn’t paying attention at all (to Watts’ scores),” Green said. “I just keep track of my score and what I’m doing and see what happens in the end.
“I was just trying to stick to the fairways and greens and let the putts fall as they did, and it worked out well.”
Green’s under-par finish was even more impressive considering her start to Monday’s opening round. She double-bogeyed the first hole, one of only two doubles in her three rounds, and followed that up with bogeys on holes 2 and 3 to find herself sitting 4-over through just three holes.
She played the final 51 holes at 5-under par and led the field with 12 birdies.
“Tara has great composure on the golf course,” said first-year coach Joni Stephens. “She is very patient out there. She doesn’t get rattled when the result of a shot is not what she wants.”
It took Green to (somewhat) overshadow the impressive debut of freshman Barbora Bakova. The first-year player from the Czech Republic shot rounds of 73 and 74 Monday in her first-ever 36-hole day.
Facing just a single round Tuesday, Bakova shot a 2-under 69 to finish tied for second with Watts, who closed with a 75. Bakova did her best work on the back nine, which she played at 3-under, including three straight birdies on holes 10, 11 and 12.
“I was really nervous yesterday, because in Europe we don’t play 36 holes in one day,” Bakova said. “It was my first experience doing that, but ultimately it wasn’t that bad.
“I was more struggling because this course is very narrow, so I hit a few trees. Today it got better. My shots were more straight. It was good golf today.”
Bakova’s 69 ties for second the best round in program history. Green, who’s done it twice, and Jill Walker, who shot hers in 2006, hold the record at 68.
Bakova tied for fifth among all players in the field in birdies with eight, but nobody had more pars than her 36.
“What a way to start your career,” Stephens said. “She just has this great level of composure out there. Never really high, never really low. She’s just very even and keeps plugging along.”
Montana’s seven golfers, which included five scoring players and two non-scoring individuals, all finished in the top 13 and produced 19 of their 21 rounds in the 70s. A pair of 80s in Monday’s second round was as high as it got for the Grizzlies.
Redshirt freshman Alexa Schendelman (70-77-79–226) finished in seventh, sophomore Hayley Bingham (73-75-79–227), who matched Bakova with a tournament-high 36 pars, tied for eighth with former Griz and now a Rocky Mountain Battlin’ Bear Kyla Clancy, and sophomore Phoebe Tan (77-80-76–233) finished 12th.
Senior Lindsay Reeve (76-80-74–230), the only senior on the team, finished 10th while competing as an individual. Freshman Amanda Kahn (79-78-78–235), also playing as an individual, tied for 13th.
All of which means Montana is going to have some tremendously competitive upcoming intra-squad qualifying rounds as the Grizzlies battle to go on upcoming road trips.
“What pushes your team to greater levels of success is having that kind of competition within your team,” said Stephens. “They are always going to be pushing each other to be better.”
Montana’s next competition will be at the Washington State Cougar Cup at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash., Sept. 23-24.
— Montana Sports Information