FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas golfer Brooke Matthews loves fall openers.
Matthews won her second season-opening event in a row Tuesday, breaking an NCAA record in the process while leading the Razorbacks to the team victory at the Cougar Classic hosted by the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.
The redshirt senior from Rogers capped a dominating performance with a final-round 64 to fire an NCAA record 25-under par at the 54-hole event.
“That’s crazy,” Matthews said. “I mean, wow, that’s not something I really even had on my radar, to be honest, like ever.
“When we came off the course and they were doing the trophy presentation when they said it [was an NCAA record], I was like ‘Oh my gosh,” and it seemed like a big deal.”
Matthews took control with rounds of 63 and 64 on Monday and seized the NCAA record by six shots for a three-round tournament. The previous NCAA record for a 54-hole tournament was held by Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee, who shot a 19-under 197 at the Westbrook Spring Invitational on Feb. 25-26, 2018.
Matthews beat North Carolina’s Krista Junkkari by 12 strokes and helped the Razorbacks hold off Baylor and capture the tournament played on the par-72 course at the Yeamans Hall Club. Matthews also won the season opener at the Blessings Collegiate Invitational last October at Blessings Golf Club in Johnson.
Matthews’ steady driving laid the groundwork for three pristine rounds on the 6,301-yard layout.
Arkansas junior Julia Gregg shot a 68 on Tuesday and carded a 6-under 210 to tie for sixth, 19 shots behind Matthews’ sizzling 191. Sophomore Kajal Mistry tied for 19th at 1-under 215.
Freshman Ffion Tynan posted a 3-over 75 for Arkansas’ final counting score on Tuesday. Tynan tied for 83rd at 12 over, while Arkansas sophomore Miriam Ayora tied for 79th at 11 over.
Matthews led the 17-team, 93-player field with 26 birdies, 11 more than Gregg and Junkkari, who were second with 15 birdies. Matthews did her big scoring on the par 4s, playing them in 15 under, nine strokes better than the next-best player.
In her final round, Matthews had five birdies on the front 9 to make the turn at 31, then followed with an eagle on the par-4 10th to reach 7 under. Matthews finished the event with just three bogeys.
Arkansas started the final round one shot shy of Georgia, but surged into a sizable lead and finished at 23-under par to hold a late run by Baylor, which came in second at 22 under.
Coach Shauna Taylor’s Razorbacks also opened last season with a team victory at the Blessings Collegiate.
“It’s great to come out of the gate hot,’ Matthews said. “Like Shauna told us, ‘You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first.’ I’m proud of my girls. They showed a lot of fight....In our sport every shot counts and it really came down to that one shot. We were just happy to be on this side of it this time.”
Florida came in third at 13 under, followed by Georgia (-12), North Carolina (-3), Central Florida (-3) and Vanderbilt (+2).