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Texas A&M women's golf team rallies to beat Texas at "Mo"Morial

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aggie women's golf LEDE PHOTO

Texas A&M’s Hailee Cooper makes a putt during the final round of The “Mo”Morial Invitational on Wednesday at Traditions Club.

The Texas A&M women’s golf team overcame a six-stroke deficit on the back nine of the final round to pass Texas and win the “Mo”Morial Invitational on Wednesday at Traditions Club.

Down three strokes after Tuesday’s first two rounds, the Aggies rallied to shoot an even-par 288 and won the team title by four strokes at 11-under 853. Texas (295) followed at 7 under with North Carolina (280) third at 4 under.

It was Gerrod Chadwell’s first team tournament win as the Aggies’ head coach in the first edition of the “Mo”Morial since 2014.

“It’s just special,” Chadwell said. “I think the support is what really gets you. So many people came out, and the volunteers ... I remember it this way when I had my teams from Houston coming here and at Oklahoma coming here. There’s just so much support.”

Senior captain Hailee Cooper led A&M’s comeback with three birdies in her final five holes. She had six total birdies on the day to go with two bogeys for a final-round 68, finishing third individually at 7-under 209. More impressively, she did it while battling an upper respiratory illness.

“At the beginning I felt pretty bad,” Cooper said. “I was coughing. ... I was just kind of achy, and my throat was hurting, but once I got out there, I was like, OK, I’m playing for the team and we need to win today. So it just kind of shifted. Good golf made it feel a little bit better.”

North Carolina’s Kayla Smith shot 4-under 68 to win the individual title at 9-under 207 with Florida’s Maisie Filler (72) second at 8 under.

In the team race, Texas’ lead began to dwindle on the back nine as the Longhorns’ top four golfers combined for eight bogeys and two double bogeys. Cooper got A&M within one stroke of Texas when she stroked a perfect left-to-right breaking 20-foot putt for birdie on No. 17. At that point, someone in the crowd let her know where the Aggies stood.

“I knew I had to be aggressive,” Cooper said. “For me, if we were winning by five shots, I might have been more conservative. I like to know [the score].”

Cooper launched a drive on No. 18 to set up an easy 100-yard pitch to the green. Her approach left the exact 15-foot putt she desired with the pin placed at the very front edge of the green. As Texas dropped another stroke, Cooper rolled in her second consecutive birdie to push A&M in front.

“I like 18,” Cooper said of her home course. “With that flag in the front, there’s always a putt where I know where it breaks, and that was the one. I hit it in that spot on purpose. I was really confident and I was like I’ve got to make it to win.”

When Aggie teammate Jennie Park sank her final putt on No. 18 to cap her own 68, Chadwell nonchalantly told her to go hug her teammates because they had won the tournament. The surprised Aggies, all of whom were off the course by that point, rushed onto the 18th green to celebrate their first team win of the season after opening the year with a second-place finish earlier this month at the Carmel Cup in Pebble Beach, California.

“We’ve come in second so many times in the last year. At Pebble Beach, we came in second,” Cooper said. “I think it just shows we can do it. Even if we’re in second and back six shots with nine left, we can do it. I think it’s good for confidence, and I know today we didn’t even play our best.”

Park finished in a tie for fifth at 5-under 211. A&M’s Zoe Slaughter (75) placed ninth at 3 under followed by Adela Cernousek (t-29th, 73–222) and Blanca Fernandez Garcia-Poggio (t-39th, 73–226).

Cooper was headed to a doctor’s appointment after the round to get a chest x-ray to evaluate the illness that plagued her during the two-day tournament. She said dealing with it on the course was worth the trouble to knock off Texas, the school she played for during her first three years before transferring to A&M.

“It’s kind of a little comeback for me too,” Cooper said. “I went there, and the girls on the team are some of my best friends, but it feels really big to beat Texas at home, especially coming back and beating them. It was a little bit of revenge in a way. It was awesome.”

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