Folsom's Briana Mao wins first collegiate golf tournament

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Briana Mao has spent countless hours playing, practicing and working to improve her golf game.

All that hard work over the years paid off Feb. 12, when the Folsom resident and sophomore at the University of Virginia won her first golf tournament of her collegiate career. Mao, who graduated from St. Francis High in 2011, shot a three-round total of 212, to win the UCF Challenge by one stroke at Redtail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. Mao opened the tournament with a two-under 70 and followed it up with a three-under 69. She entered the final round of the tournament tied for first and came home with a one-over par 73, draining a three-foot putt on the final hole to clinch the win.

“After I made that putt, I heard my coaches and my teammate, Portland, and her family screaming, “Yay Bri” and cheering,” Mao said of her victory.

Making the win even better, Mao’s parents and grandparents were in the crowd and witnesses her first collegiate win.

“It was really great to have my parents and grandparents there to witness my win because they have been there for me since I started playing,” Mao said. “They traveled with me and watched my game improve, so to have them there for my first collegiate win was really special.”

Several factors played into Mao earning the win. Mao overcame windy conditions to keep her shots on line and also putted well.

“It was really windy so the key was to be able to control my shots and have a good short game,” Mao said. “Growing up, my dad had me practice in all sorts of weather conditions. There were 30 miles-per-hour wind conditions at this tournament, but I knew what types of shots I had to play. Also, I’ve been working a lot on my putting lately, so I was happy to see that everything was coming together.”

Mao also proved to have the mental toughness to win. She’s been working with a sports psychologist and that work paid off with tournament win.

“Meeting with a sports psychologist has helped me with my focus on the golf course and how I can be more adaptable on the course,” Mao said. “Before I would get frustrated with any miss-hit or bad bounce, but he’s helped me realize that there are things that I cannot control and I realize that those things aren’t a big deal.”

As Mao’s season continues, her goal is to become an All-American. She’s got three more tournaments in March before the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament kicks off the postseason in April. The NCAA Regional and National Championships are slated for May.

“Becoming an All-American is a major goal for me,” Mao said. “I’ve been working really hard on my game and realized that even on my off days, my game isn’t that bad. What has always held me back was my mental game, so as soon as have that in total control, I can become more consistent and continue posting low scores.”