Gophers' star golfer Bella McCauley on Big Ten title: 'Something you dream about as a kid'

Big Ten champion has a nice ring to it for University of Minnesota sophomore Isabella McCauley.

She’s just 20 years old, but made history at the Big Ten Championships in Maryland to bring home the program’s first individual title in more than three decades. McCauley entered the final round 1-over par, seven shots back of the lead. She finished with an 8-under par 64, her best score as a college player, to share the Big Ten title and earn a spot in the NCAA Regionals in early May.

She said her phone has been buzzing ever since with hundreds of text messages.

"Words cannot describe the feeling that it is to be a Big Ten champion. It’s something you dream about as a kid and you never thought it would actually happen. It has a really nice ring to it," McCauley said Wednesday.

She’s the first Gophers’ player to win the honor since Katie Hughes in 1989, marking a stretch of 35 years.

"I don’t think words can even express how great to be called that and be up with some of the best names that there are. I think going into the season, it was nothing I had expected at all," McCauley said. "You really try to have a low level of expectations just because you never know, that’s how sports are. Some days you win, some days you lose. This exceeded far beyond any goals I had or anything like that. The feeling is so special."

She knew she might be in for a big day after hitting a shot from the rough to one foot from the pin on the No. 9 hole at the course. At the time, she was just trying to avoid hitting it in the water. It was the start of four straight birdies in a bogey-free round.

McCauley on Wednesday was selected to play in the Auburn, Alabama NCAA Regional that starts May 5 at Auburn University Club.

After that, her summer includes trying to qualify for both the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur. She’s already played in the U.S. Open as a high school junior.