LAKE ELMO, Minn. — Kiara Romero stood next to her coach, Derek Radley, on the side of the 18th green.
The freshman at Oregon just walked in a birdie putt on the final hole of her first college tournament. She had no idea where it put her on the leaderboard, but everyone else did.
It gave her a share of the lead.
Radley whispered to Romero that she had won. She threw her hands over her mouth as tears filled her eyes.
Romero was one of four who shared medalists honors Wednesday after the final round of the 2023 Annika Intercollegiate at Royal Golf Club. She, along with South Carolina’s Louise Rydqvist, Duke’s Phoebe Brinker and Florida State’s Lottie Woad all finished at 8-under 208 for the tournament, a grand start to the year at one of the deepest events in women’s college golf.
Oregon freshman Kiara Romero birdies her final hole to move to 8 under, which will give her a tie for medalist honors in her first tournament. South Carolina will win the team title #ANNIKAInter pic.twitter.com/jgDbjgQgxh
— Cameron Jourdan (@Cam_Jourdan) September 13, 2023
“I thought I was going to have to make an eagle on the last hole to get the win,” Romero said. “I just wanted to make birdie so I could be in the top three or something.”
However, the birdie was good enough to earn Romero, the 2023 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, a college win in her first start.
It was also the first win for Rydqvist, a junior who had a 4-foot putt for birdie on 18 to win outright, but it slid by. Nevertheless, she’s not going home empty handed, as South Carolina won the team title at 26 under, beating Oregon by three strokes and defending event champion and national champion Wake Forest by four.
Rydqvist also earned a coveted exemption into the inaugural The Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican taking place Nov. 6-12 at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida. One player from the winning team earned a spot in the field, and Gamecocks’ coach Kalen Anderson chose Rydqvist, from Sweden, for the honor.
“I think I need a minute because it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Rydqvist said. “It feels absolutely incredible. I can’t wait to get down there.”
The Annika, an official LPGA event, will offer a $3.25 million purse, one of the largest outside of the majors. Proceeds from the tournament will…