Sept. 9, 2008
The 2008-09 season is one of great potential for the South Carolina and head coach Kalen Anderson. Despite the loss of four seniors from last year's team, the Gamecocks return their top scorer in junior Bénédicte Toumpsin as well as junior Taylor Barrett, whose 14th-place showing at the Southeastern Conference Championship helped the team to fifth place. The departures also leave room for younger players who have been waiting in the wings to get valuable tournament experience. Additionally, Anderson has added four players to the roster in three freshmen and junior transfer Corrine Carr from Furman.
"After the team finished so well in the postseason last year, we are headed in the right direction," Anderson said. "I am excited about the talent of this squad and look forward to building on the success we had last spring. We will continue to work hard and stay patient in the process of our improvement."
Toumpsin leads the discussion of the upcoming season after she turned in an All-American 2007-08 campaign. After becoming the program's first, first-team All-SEC selection since Adrienne Gautreaux inn 2004, Toumpsin finished third in the SEC Championship. She went on to collect her first career individual medal at the NCAA East Regional, battling back with birdies on the final two holes to secure the victory, the first by a Gamecock at an NCAA Regional since 1995. The effort led to All-America honors from both the National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) and Golfweek. She finished the season with a 74.03 average to rank 29th in the nation, eighth in the SEC and fourth in school history. In all, Toumpsin turned in five top-five finishes on the season, four of which came under Anderson's guidance in the spring.
"Bénédicte's win at the East Regional last spring was just a small glimpse of what she is capable of as a golfer," Anderson said. "She has one of the best golf swings in women's collegiate golf and has the mental toughness to shoot really low numbers. I am looking forward to watching Bénédicte achieve much more at the collegiate level."
After Toumpsin, Barrett has the most experience with 14 tournaments under her belt over her first two seasons. She became a fixture in the lineup last spring and had a breakout performance at the SEC Championship with a career-best score of 226 to tie her career-best finish in 14th place.
"Taylor is a fun and refreshing personality to have on the team," Anderson said. "She was a significant contributor last year and posted several solid rounds at crucial times in the spring. I foresee Taylor being a strong factor in our lineup this season as she continues to get better and better."
Senior Meredith Taylor battled a series of injuries through her first two seasons before making her tournament debut last season. A second-round 76 at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic showed what she is capable of shooting, but she will have to work on consistently putting up that type of number.
"Meredith's enthusiasm for the game of golf and the University of South Carolina is an attitude that every coach wants to have on the team," Anderson said. "She is a great athlete who is extremely coachable. With her length off the tee and her strong work ethic, Meredith will only continue to improve and contribute to the program."
Of the four newcomers, Carr will enjoy the benefit of collegiate experience after playing her first two seasons at Furman University. She played in 19 tournaments for the Lady Paladins with a 78.13 stroke average during her time with that team. She finished 10th at the 2008 NCAA East Regional after firing a career-low 69 in the first round. Carr also finished in the top 10 at the Southern Conference Championship twice.
"I am extremely excited to have Corrine join our team this season," Anderson said. "Having seen her play several times while she was at Furman, I know she is a solid ball striker who should contribute greatly to our program."
The three freshmen rounding out the squad bring a wealth of junior experience and success to the program. Katie Burnett was the 2006 Georgia PGA Player of the Year and won the organization's Stroke Average Award that year as well. She helped Brunswick High School to a third-place finish at the 2006 and 2007 regionals and holds school records for lowest nine-hole and 18-hole scores.
"Katie joins out ream after a strong summer of tournament experience," Anderson said. "She has a ton of raw talent that she has only just begun to tap. Katie brings great athleticism, work ethic, enthusiasm and attitude to our team. The sky's the limit for her, and it will be exciting to watch her progress over the next four years."
A two-time all-state and all-region player, Cayci Ruppe finished second at the 2007 South Carolina 4A State Tournament behind a second-round 73. She went on to win her regional tournament with a career-best 67 and finished second at the South Carolina Junior Match Play Championship and the Players Championship.
"With Cayci we gained a solid golfer from South Carolina's junior program," Anderson said. "She will thrive in our program, and I look forward to watching her progress."
Freshman Taylor Weaver was the only player to top Ruppe at the 2007 State Tournament. Weaver helped Dorman High to regional championships in 2006 and 2007, claiming the individual regional title in 2006 as well. A four-time all-state selection, she also earned all-region honors in 2006 and 2007.
"It is great to have one of South Carolina's top junior golfers joining our squad," Anderson said. "I look forward to the process of Taylor's improvement as she gains more national tournament experience over the next four years."
In 2008-09, the Gamecocks will return to just four regular-season tournaments that were on their 2007-08 schedule, beginning with the Cougar Classic Sept. 14-16 and the Lady Tar Heel Invitational Oct. 3-5. Anderson has added the University of Tennessee's Mercedes Benz Collegiate and Auburn's The Derby to the fall slate, and the Gamecocks will open the spring at Michigan State's Central District Invitational. South Carolina will play in the University of Texas' Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational for the first time in between return trips to the LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic and the Bryan Park National Collegiate.
South Carolina will host the SEC Championship this season at Cobblestone Park April 17-19, looking to advance to an NCAA Regional for the 11th-straight season. The NCAA East Regional, where the Gamecocks have played each of the last 10 seasons, will be at the University of Florida Golf Club May 7-9. The NCAA Championship is on the East Coast this season with Georgetown University hosting the event at Caves Valley Golf Club May 19-22.
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