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Camaraderie Helps Lead Team to Success

By Cameron Smith

Journalism Student

Coming off of their best season in program history, the Rebels have carried that success over to this season with 5 top 5 finishes as a team and one of those coming in the SEC tournament.

The highlight of the rebel’s season came at the Valspar Augusta Invitational at Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia back on March 12-13 where they managed to tie for a first place finish out of 16 teams in the field.

Photo provided

Some other notable finishes for the Rebels came when they finished 3rd in the Jackson T. Stephens Cup at Alotian Golf Club in stroke play and moved on to beat Arkansas in match play 3-2 on October 18-19. They also finished 3rd in the Rapsodo In The Desert at Lost Gold Golf Club on Jan 23-24.

Andrea Lignell and Chiara Tamburlini have played a big part in the Rebels success this year as they are both ranked inside the top 100 in the latest Golfweek NCAA individual rankings.

Lignell and Tamburlini have been a dynamic duo this season for the Rebels finishing tied 15th or better in almost every tournament that they have competed in on the year.

“I think the coolest part is watching what Chiara and Andrea have done this year, and they have kind of grabbed this team and thrown them on their backs carrying this team to the postseason,” Byrd said.

The leadership that has come from Lignell and Tamburlini has been contagious, and Byrd says it has made some of the younger players better.

Lignell, Tamburlini and Julia Johnson have been stand out golfers for this program when they are firing on all cylinders. All three ladies have a top 5 finish on the year and hope to get hot as they head into postseason play. 

Their best individual performances came when Lignell finished tied for 2nd at the East Lake Cup, Tamburlini finished 4that the Valspar Augusta Invitational, and Julia Johnson won the ANNIKA Intercollegiate in the Rebels first tournament of the year back in the fall. 

“Julia, winning at Annika was I mean its pretty much the biggest tournament of the fall season, that was huge. And then she played well, the Valspar, which, you know, there’s no coincidence that that’s why we won,” Byrd said.

In the Rebels regular season finale on April 4th at the Auburn Invitational at Saugahatchee Country Club found Maddie May, Ellen-Hutchinson Kay, and McKinley Cuningham all finishing inside the top 20 in the field. 

Freshman, Maddie May, recorded her career best finish on the year in her freshman season at the Auburn Individual firing a 70(-2).

The Ole Miss women’s golf team is currently ranked 24th in the nation and 9th in the conference along with the number 1 strength of schedule across the country. 

“What people don’t understand is, women’s golf in the SEC is stronger than football is in the SEC, and we have had a pretty good year, even on a down year,” he said. So, you know, I think we are close to playing good golf, and we are looking forward to getting down to Birmingham in a couple of weeks and trying to get the SEC Championship kicked off in a good manner. 

The Rebels just wrapped up the SEC tournament with a strong outing finishing 4th in stroke play and moved on to match play in the quarterfinals where they faced Florida. The Rebels lost the match 3-2. Julia Johnson found herself winning her match 2&1 and Andrea Lignell battled down the stretch to tie the match on the final hole. She would go on to win her match 1 up against Florida’s Marina Escobar Domingo.

Photo provided

Assistant Coach Zack Byrd says he believes after all the adversity the program has had to fight through from issues like COVID, season ending injuries, and short-term injuries that this team still has a chance to do something special because of the comradery that the girls have.

“It’s why they won everything last year, but it’s a big reason why this team still has a chance to be good with everything that’s happened,” Byrd said. “I think that’s the cool part of what Kory and I have focused so hard on is getting this to be the closest-knit team in the country and that’s where you win and that’s how you win.”

This team has faced every obstacle thrown at them and every time they are faced with a new challenge it only brings them closer together.

The Rebels lost one of their top players in Ellen Hume who had to put her golf career on hold earlier in the year to have season ending surgery, but Byrd hopes that they can get her a medical redshirt since she did not play enough tournaments this year to use as a year of eligibility.

“Two days out of surgery and she was on the putting green with the girls just standing out there with her sling trying to keep practice lite, even though she was not able to do anything in practice,” Byrd said.

Byrd says Hume is the emotional spark plug on this team and has been around the team every minute that she can.  

“When she’s gone it definitely takes a lot of the fire out of the team,” Byrd said. She’s so funny and she is the best teammate in the world.”

Looking ahead to next season, the Rebels recently added one of the top golfers in the country in Isabella Fierro from the transfer portal. Fierro played for Oklahoma State University,

before she announced her commitment to play her final year of collegiate golf at Ole Miss. 

Byrd compares Fierro to Ole Miss golf alum Kennedy Swan who was a part of the National Championship team in 2021.

“She’s got a lot of fire, which is kind of what Kennedy brought last year,” Byrd said. “They kind of have similar games, they are about the same size, and both hit it a long way.”

Byrd and Henkes are very familiar with Fierro’s game, as they saw it up close when Ole Miss competed against Fierro last May for the National Championship. 

“Isabel has always been a person that I’ve admired I love her fire I love her grit I have watched her play a lot,” Byrd said.

Fierro is a veteran who is coming in with great talent and experience who can make a difference right away for the Rebels.

“It’s basically everything you hope and pray for when you’re looking in the portal so to get her was huge and we’re super excited,” Byrd said. She fits in great with the girls and Chiara and Isabella are very close already.”

There is great upside for this team as they take a glimpse ahead to look at next season as the Rebels look forward to having Ellen Hume back from a season ending injury which was a huge loss for them this year along with adding 2 freshmen to the roster.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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