Gamecocks Open Play at NCAA Championship Tuesday
May 21, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- For the third straight year, the South Carolina women's golf team will vie for the program's first-ever national title as it tees off at the 2012 NCAA Championship on Tuesday. The 72-hole event runs through Friday at the par-72, 6,377-yard Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn.
The Gamecocks enter the week as a team to watch for after winning the NCAA East Regional title for the second time in three years.
"We are really excited," South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said of playing in the NCAA Championship. "We are coming off a very strong NCAA East Regional. It was a great team effort. In the last three or four tournaments, they have stepped up and played like a team when it has mattered most. Everybody has done their job, and that's what I'm most proud of."
Unlike last season when three true freshmen competed at the championship, Harris will send a more experienced lineup to the tee box on Tuesday, with senior Katie Burnett, juniors Amanda Strang and Meredith Swanson, sophomore Suzie Lee and freshman Justine Dreher looking to continue their success from the East Regional.
Burnett brings the most NCAA Championship experience to the lineup as she is making her third trip. The Brunswick, Ga., native has not missed a lineup during her four years at South Carolina and currently ranks first all-time in career scoring with a stroke average of 74.25. Her best NCAA Championship finish was a tie for ninth in 2010, which is the second best championship finish in school history. Her four-round total of 286 is the best 72-hole score in program history.
Strang, who is second on the team with a 75.38 stroke average this season, will also be making her third career championship appearance, with her best finish being a tie for 65th last season. Lee will be making her second career trip after finishing in a tie for 80th last season. Her final-round 68 at the NCAA East Regional played a key role in helping the Gamecocks hold on to win the title and advance to this year's championship.
Swanson and Dreher will both be making their debuts. Swanson has competed in all 10 tournaments this season and has a stroke average of 76.17. Dreher, who tied for 19th at the East Regional, has put together a stellar freshman campaign. The SEC All-Freshman Team honoree is currently third on the squad with a 75.40 stroke average, which ranks third all-time at South Carolina for a freshman.
South Carolina is making its fourth trip to the NCAA Championship in five years and its 12th overall appearance. The Gamecocks advanced to the championship last season and produced an 18th-place showing with rounds of 302-315-298-296=1211.
In 11 previous appearances, the best team showing was a tie for ninth place at the 1995 championship when Siew-Ai Lim and Clarissa Childs both finished in the top 20 to lead the way at the Dye Course at the Country Club of Landfall. Lim is the most decorated individual in program history when it comes to the NCAA Championship. She finished in a tie for ninth in 1995 and a tie for sixth place the following year. She is also the only Gamecock to have played in an NCAA Championship each of her four seasons.
This year's 24-team field has few surprises with 17 teams ranked in the Golf World/NGCA Top 25. Top-ranked and defending national champion UCLA leads the way, followed by No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 4 Southern California, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 North Carolina, No. 8 Duke, No. 9 Vanderbilt, No. 11 Colorado, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 15 Florida, No. 17 Baylor, No. 18 Pepperdine, No. 20 Ohio State and No. 22 NC State. Arkansas, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Stanford, Texas and Virginia round out the field. UCLA secured its berth by winning the West Regional title, while Southern California claimed the Central Regional championship.
The Gamecocks have competed against 22 of the 23 teams this season, compiling a 30-41 head-to-head record.
Carolina will be paired with UCLA and Southern California for the first two rounds. The Gamecocks will tee off at 12 p.m. CT off hole No. 1 on Tuesday and at 7:33 a.m. CT off hole No. 10 on Wednesday. Live scoring will be available at golfstatresults.com.