Gamecock Women's Golf Heads to NCAA East Regional
May 9, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina women's golf team is set to begin play in the 2012 NCAA Championship as it heads north to State College, Pa., for the NCAA East Regional. The 54-hole event runs Thursday through Saturday at the par-72, 6,253-yard Penn State Golf Course.
The Gamecocks, who are ranked No. 25 in the latest NGCA Coaches' Poll, enter the tournament as the No. 8 seed and will compete against 23 teams for a berth to the NCAA Championship. Eight teams and two individuals not on those teams from each of the three regional sites will advance to the championship, which will be held May 23-26 at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn.
"If we play Carolina golf, I'm confident that we are going to make it through and advance," South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said. "We've got all five from our group playing well right now. It's a very deep region, and we have our work cut out for us. We will just have to take it one shot at a time and one round at a time and just minimize mental mistakes. We need to keep our head in the game and be mentally tough and patient. That's what a regional is about. If we can do those things, we are going to have a good week."
South Carolina is coming off a sixth-place showing at the SEC Championship, and Harris has decided to keep the lineup from that weekend intact with the exception of one spot. Senior Katie Burnett, juniors Amanda Strang and Meredith Swanson and freshman Justine Dreher will remain in the lineup, while sophomore Suzie Lee will play for the first time since the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in March.
Burnett is primed to lead the way in the fourth regional appearance of her career. The Brunswick, Ga., native has not missed a tournament in four years at South Carolina and currently ranks first in career scoring with a stroke average of 74.30. She also has had success at the regional level as she captured medalist honors at the 2010 NCAA East Regional.
"Katie has done phenomenal job for us, especially this spring," Harris said. "She's been a rock in our lineup and continues to carry us through. Hopefully, we can keep depending on her, and the rest of the team will step up behind her and put up some good numbers as well."
Strang is making her third career NCAA appearance, with her best finish being a tie for 39th showing at the 2010 NCAA East Regional. Swanson and Dreher are making their first trips to the NCAA postseason. Dreher is coming off a strong showing at the SEC Championship, where she finished in a tie for 12th place. Dreher is third on the team with a stroke average of 75.71, which ranks fourth all-time for a freshman at South Carolina.
"She came in as a freshman and had a little trouble adjusting early on but she has really come on late in the season and has been the player I expected her to be," Harris said. "Fortunately, it's been at the right time. She really just started to show us what she is capable of, and I've had that confidence in her for a long time. She's a very experienced player from Europe, and her game is just now starting to peak."
South Carolina will be joined by 16 teams ranked in the nation's top 50 this week, including No. 2 Alabama, No. 17 Arizona, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 8 Duke, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 14 Florida, No. 19 Oklahoma State, No. 25 Michigan State, No. 26 Washington, No. 30 Texas, No. 32 Tulane, No. 38 UCF, No. 42 Wake Forest, No. 43 Northwestern and No. 45 San Diego State. Augusta State, Campbell, Chattanooga, Jacksonville State, Kent State, LIU Brooklyn, Maryland and Oral Roberts round out the field. South Carolina has faced 16 of the regional teams this season, compiling a 21-22 record.
The Gamecocks are making their 14th straight trip to the NCAA Regionals and 19th overall. Carolina won the East Regional in 2010, which was the program's first regional title. Burnett led the way by claiming medalist honors with a score of 210 (-6) to become the school's third regional champion. South Carolina's previous best finish was a fourth-place showing in 1995. Last season, the Gamecocks played in the West Regional for the first time in program history and produced a sixth-place finish to advance to the NCAA Championship. Lee and Samantha Swinehart were the top finishers for Carolina as they each shot a 222 (+6) to tie for 15th.
South Carolina is looking to advance to its 12th NCAA Championship, including the fourth in five years under Harris.
The Gamecocks will tee off in the first round on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. and will be paired with Oklahoma State and Michigan State. Live scoring will be available at golfstatresults.com.