April 27, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina senior Ainhoa Olarra captured the individual title at the 2018 SEC Championship in dramatic fashion. She hit a beautiful shot out of the bunker on the 18th hole and drained the birdie putt to force a playoff with Arkansas' Maria Fassi. It was Olarra’s second career win and marked the third time in SEC history that an individual from the same school won the title in back to back years after South Carolina’s Katelyn Dambaugh won it last year.
“Winning the SEC title meant a lot to me. The SEC is one of the hardest conferences in golf. I’m really happy and proud to have won that. I know that it helped our team to be on top going into match play.
“It’s harder to win the SEC Tournament than others during the season because in the SEC, every team is good enough to beat us, and we are good enough to beat any of them. It is really tough.
“It has been a hard year, but I’ve been playing pretty good. I’m not done yet, but it’s nice to almost be done with my college career and win two individual tournaments this season.
“Coach didn’t talk to me too much during the round about the individual stuff. It was more about the team. I wanted to know if we were still in first.
“Some of the individual scores that were posted were actually wrong, so I didn’t know if I was one or two strokes behind Maria.
“On the 18th hole, we changed the strategy of the hole. Instead of laying up and trying to make an up and down, I hit it into the bunker on purpose because there was a hill next to the hole. That’s the shot I wanted.
I’m excited for the couple of weeks I still have here at South Carolina.
“When I hit into the bunker, everyone was saying ‘oh, she hit it in the bunker.’ But honestly, we wanted to hit it there. It would be easier to go uphill than have it roll off. We played the hole like we wanted. I hit a good shot out of the bunker. It went a little longer than I wanted, but I made the putt after, so it was good.
“On the last putt in the playoff, it was pretty straight and didn’t have much break. The only thing I thought about was ‘Ainhoa, you’ve hit this putt a thousand times.’ I talked to coach about the line. I just had to hit it hard enough. I focused on the little spot I put on the line and just tried to hit it there.
“After I won, I didn’t really remember what happened at first. I hugged Maria and told her that she did great. She is a great player. Then my teammates came and sprinkled me with water. It was a little crazy.
“The trophy is in my apartment. It’s still in the box, though.
“Now we have NCAA Regionals, and I’m very excited. It’s going to be really hard, but playing the SECs is really hard. Our goal is always to win.
“My parents are coming for graduation, and I’m excited for the couple of weeks I still have here at South Carolina.”
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