Future Jayhawks Fonseca, Evans Compete Together at Optimist International
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Ari Fonseca Diaz’ back-to-school plans include plenty of shopping in the final weeks before arriving at Kansas for her freshman year, so it’s probably best for packing sake that she didn’t nab the largest trophy Friday. Fonseca Diaz capped a stellar junior golf career against a strong field of 120 golfers, including fellow Kansas signee Laine Evans, with a runner-up finish at the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship at PGA National Resort and Spa.
Fonseca Diaz used five birdies to shoot an opening-round 70 (-2) and was tied for the lead after two rounds before Mercer signee Mary Janiga distanced herself from the future Jayhawk and the rest of the field while closing the tournament with back-to-back rounds under par and a 2-under 286. Fonseca Diaz carded a 4-over 292 and Evans finished 34th with a 310 (+22).
It was her second-consecutive, runner-up finish at the four-day, 72-hole event, but as the final junior event of her career, this one meant more.
“I feel really good about it, there’s no better way to end junior golf,” Fonseca Diaz said, half a round removed from using an 80-yard blast from the trees after a bad tee shot to get within two feet of the pin and save par on No. 9. “I felt pretty consistent and felt good for myself. It made me realize that I am ready for college golf now.”
Fonseca Diaz’ tournament highlights included better putting, particularly in the opening rounds, and a first round chip-in on hole No. 8 among her five birdies that day. No stranger to the international scene – Fonseca Diaz was born in Columbia but calls Caracas, Venezuela, her hometown and has lived in Florida for her high school years – the incoming freshman competed at the Pan American Games in Toronto (July 16-19). Representing Venezuela, Fonseca Diaz finished near the middle of the field in a tie for 16th after shooting a 307 (+19) over four rounds.
She also finished 37th at the AJGA Rolex Girls Junior Championships (June 9-12) among other tournaments during a busy summer slate – one that’s kept her from preparing for life as a normal college student.
“I’m going to practice, but I need to do some college shopping,” Fonseca Diaz laughed. “This will be the first time I’m home for more than four days in the last two months. I’m going to pack and drive to Lawrence in a couple weeks, and our first tournament is in September – I really look forward to that.”
Although not paired together on the course, Fonseca Diaz and Evans, from Maize, Kansas, went through orientation together and arranged practice rounds together at the Optimist. Evans’ best round was the second, when she shot even par on the front nine of the Fazio Course before carding a 1-over 73 with a birdie and two bogeys on the back nine. Evans was just five strokes over par through two rounds and four strokes off the lead before falling off the pace in the third and fourth. Evans said she hit the ball well throughout the tournament, but couldn’t find consistency on the putting green.
Like Fonseca Diaz, it was Evans’ second time playing the event after also making the cut at last year’s tournament, but unlike her future teammate, Evans has one more event before packing her bags for Lawrence. Evans will closer her junior career Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas – a course nearly 30 minutes from her home, but one she’s never played.
“I think I’ve grown a lot,” Evans said of her summer. “I’m not getting so upset about bad shots, shake them off and try to move on. I missed a shot during the tournament, then got a birdie on the next hole – I’ve learned not to give up as much, to keep trying as hard as I can each shot. Golf is 80 percent mental and my mental game has gotten a lot better.”
Evans, Fonseca Diaz and Victoria Chandra (Denpasar, Bali) will join a Kansas women’s golf roster looking to return to the NCAA Championship under the senior leadership of Mackenzie Thayer and Yupaporn Kawinpakorn, the Jayhawks’ returning scoring leader (73.57) and top-five finisher in six of 11 events a year ago. Kansas opens fall competition at the Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational September 8, hosted this year by Kansas State at Colbert Hills Country Club in Manhattan, Kansas.
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