Feb. 9, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina women's golf team is set to open its spring schedule on Sunday at the UCF Challenge in Sorrento, Fla.
The 54-hole tournament runs through Tuesday and will be contested at RedTail Golf Club, which features a par-72, 6,300-yard layout.
After going more than three months without a tournament, South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris is ready to see her team back in action.
"We worked very hard over the winter time," Harris said. "I was very pleased with a lot of the individual work our players did. I think we are coming back very ready this spring. They know that we have a job to accomplish, and I think we are quite ready to start off the season with a bang. Everybody is excited to compete again."
The Gamecocks played in four events in the fall with their best finish being a tie for 12th at the Tar Heel Invitational. South Carolina has four more regular season tournaments on its schedule this spring to prepare for postseason play, which begins with the SEC Championship on April 19-21 in Birmingham, Ala.
After going through a competitive qualifying for this week's tournament, Harris will field the same lineup she closed out the fall with in the Landfall Tradition. Juniors Samantha Swinehart and Suzie Lee, sophomore Justine Dreher and freshmen Sarah Schmelzel and Chelsey Couch will look to get the Gamecocks off to a strong start this spring. Freshman Mary Fran Hillow will also be making the trip as she is set to make her collegiate debut as an individual.
Dreher and Schmelzel could be a solid 1-2 combo for the Gamecocks with the way they wrapped up play in the fall. Dreher played in all four tournaments and turned in a stroke average of 76.30. She closed out the schedule with a tie for 15th finish in the Landfall Tradition. Schmelzel burst onto the scene to post a team-best 73.90 scoring average in four tournaments. She turned in one top-20 finish on her way to climbing to No. 65 in the Golfstat Head-to-Head Player Rankings.
"Justine Dreher has really stepped up and worked extremely hard," Harris said. "She's made some changes not only with her golf swing, but mentally she's a lot stronger. Sarah Schemlzel, I love the stuff she's been doing. She had a great fall for us and really stepped up and led the way for us. You are going to see great things from her."
Swinehart also had a strong fall for the Gamecocks as she played in every tournament and recorded one top-20 finish, a tie for 12th showing at the Tar Heel Invitational. A native of Lancaster, Ohio, Swinehart has the second lowest stroke average (75.30) on the team. Lee has played in four tournaments for South Carolina this season and has a stroke average of 76.89. Couch saw action in two tournaments, posting an average of 77.
The Gamecocks are opening the spring season at the UCF Challenge for a third straight year. South Carolina finished tied for fifth at the event in 2011 and placed seventh last season. Former All-American Katie Burnett led the Gamecocks both years as she claimed eighth in 2011 and tied for 14th last year. Swinehart has played both years and recorded the best finish of her career in 2011 with a tie for 11th.
This year's UCF Challenge features 18 teams, with seven ranked in the Golfstat Top 50. No. 9 North Carolina and No. 18 Virginia headline the tournament and are joined by No. 30 Tulane, No. 38 Texas State, No. 42 Mississippi, No. 46 Oregon State and No. 48 Missouri in the rankings. Augusta State, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, East Carolina, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Louisville, Miami, South Florida and host UCF round out the field.
First-round play begins Sunday at 8 a.m. Live results will be available here.
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