May 12, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- For the second time in three years, the South Carolina women's golf team claimed the NCAA East Regional title. The Gamecocks led wire-to-wire and wrapped up the tournament with a final-round 291 (+3) to win by five strokes on Saturday at the Penn State Golf Course.
Carolina held a seven-shot lead heading into the round and was never threatened as it went on to post a three-day total of 873 (+9), which ties for the fifth lowest 54-hole total in school history. The win is the Gamecocks' first since claiming the 2010 NCAA East Regional.
"It's unbelievable. To come out on top in such a deep regional, we just did a phenomenal job," South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said. "We are lucky to come away with it. The team played so solid. They were mentally tough every day and just stayed in the present. That's more than we can ask for, and we just need to do that going into the NCAA Championship."
Texas A&M and Texas finished tied for second with a score of 878 (+14) to clinch two of the eight available spots for the NCAA Championships, while Alabama (879), Florida (879), Arizona State (887), Michigan State (887) and Duke (887) will also advance.
Sophomore Suzie Lee made sure the Gamecocks held on to first place by firing a career-low 68 (-4), which ties for the third lowest score by a sophomore in school history. Lee bounced back from Friday's 83 to climb the leaderboard and finish in a tie for 41st with a score of 224 (+8). She played her best golf of the season on the front nine, shooting a 4-under 32. The highlight of her round came on the par-4 sixth when she sank her approach shot from 127 yards for eagle.
"That's so impressive," Harris said. "She got off to a 1-under start. Then the eagle at No. 6 got her to 3-under, and she just kept it going. I couldn't be prouder of her for her comeback after an 83 (on Friday)."
Senior Katie Burnett carded a 1-over 73 and finished in a tie for third with a score of 216 (E). She came up three shots shy of forcing a playoff to play for her second medalist honor at the NCAA East Regional in three years. After shooting even par on the front side, she struggled at times on the back nine with three bogeys as she fell back to 2-over heading to the 18th tee box. However, she closed out the round on a positive note by making birdie on the final hole to secure the seventh top-five finish of her career, which moves her into a tie for fourth in top-five finishes all-time at South Carolina.
Junior Amanda Strang shot an even-par 72 to post a career-best NCAA Regional finish of a tie for 14th with a score of 220 (+4). After shooting a 3-over 39 on the front nine, she settled down to play her best nine holes of the tournament on the back side, recording birdies on three of her first four holes and making par the rest of the way to get back to even for the round.
Freshman Justine Dreher wrapped up an impressive NCAA Regional debut with a final-round 78 (+6). She finished the tournament in a tie for 19th with a score of 221 (+5). On the day, Dreher carded one birdie, three bogeys, two double bogeys and 13 pars. She played a key role in building Carolina's cushion heading into the final day with rounds of 70 (-2) and 73 (+1) on the first two days.
Junior Meredith Swanson turned in an 80 (+8) to finish in a tie for 87th. She produced one birdie on the day as she sank a three-foot putt on the par-4 13th after narrowly holing out on her approach shot from the rough.
Texas A&M's Katerina Ruzickova shot a 1-over 73 to hold on to win medalist honors with a score of 213 (-3).
The Gamecocks will now advance to the NCAA Championship for the fourth time in five years. This year's tournament will be held May 23-26 at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn. South Carolina will be joined by SEC foes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks finished 18th at last year's NCAA Championship.
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