Courtesy of UCR Athletics
Courtesy of UCR Athletics

The 2015 NCAA St. George Regional kicked off Thursday, May 7, and while the UC Riverside women’s golf team was unable to earn a tournament bid as a whole, its star, Savannah Vilaubi was able to participate as an individual competitor, the first woman golfer in UCR history to do so. The tournament, now in its 23rd year, consisted of a total of 18 teams along with six individual golfers for a total field of 96. Of those six individuals, only the top three would be able to advance to the championship finals, making Vilaubi’s margin for error throughout the three days quite scant.

Vilaubi managed to put herself in competitive position after the first day of the tournament, placing 32nd overall at six strokes over par, firing off a total score of 77. This was good enough to place her fourth and just two strokes behind her fellow Big West Conference competitor, Long Beach State’s Kassidy Teare.

Entering a Friday where high winds and thunderstorms were in the forecast, the battle with Teare rained on as Vilaubi looked to build upon her solid start. However, despite finishing the day at seven over par — only one stroke worse than Thursday’s six over — she dropped in the overall standings; tying for 42nd place with nine other golfers while honing a combined score of 13 over par.

Due to her 9:15 a.m. tee time, she was able to just miss the storms which began around noon, but the early winds could certainly have had an effect on her play. As Vilaubi fell in the standings though, Teare maintained her lead of two strokes by shooting an identical seven over on the day.

With no ground made as she and the Long Beach State star battled to advance, Vilaubi headed into the clear-skied, final day of the tournament with obvious intentions: move up the leaderboard. After bogeying on the first and seventh hole respectively, Vilaubi was finally able to hit a stroke under par on the eighth, which proved crucial at day’s end. And after that, other than another bogey on hole 17, she was able to remain even the rest of the way. This allowed her to finish at two over on the day — her best score of the tournament — and with a combined total of 15 over par, tying with six others for 34th place.

Meanwhile, her counterpart struggled down the stretch, ending with a Saturday score of five over par and an overall score of 16 over; one behind Vilaubi.

Due to her great composure down the stretch as well as some oft-necessary luck, Vilaubi was able to edge out Teare to earn third place outright among the individual competitors. She now qualifies to advance to the championship finals held in Bradenton, Florida. The result is fitting for a player who led the Highlanders in scoring average this season, shooting 74.7 over nine tournaments. She also managed five top-10 finishes on the year and set a new school record for individual score in a single round when she shot a career-low 67 in the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown Tournament on Oct. 26.

For all of Vilaubi’s accomplishments this season, being the first UCR woman to participate and now advance in the Women’s Golf Championships has to be among the sweetest. The championships begin on May 22.