Oct. 4, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina women's golf team will face one of its toughest tests of the season this weekend when it opens play on Friday at the NCAA Fall Preview in Athens, Ga.
The 54-hole event runs through Sunday at the par-72, 6,335-yard University of Georgia Golf Course.
The tournament serves as a preview to the 2013 NCAA Championship, which will be held at the UGA Golf Course May 21-24. With a field featuring 18 teams, including 15 ranked in the top 50 in the latest Golfstat rankings, the Gamecocks will get an early indication of where they stack up against the best teams in the country.
"It's supposed to be one of strongest fields that we play all year," South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said. "It's the preview of what they think the championship will be in the spring. They pick the field using the top 10 teams from last year's NCAA Championship and they pick the rest of the field by the rankings coming into this year. It's an exciting tournament to be in and be a part of."
The field consists of defending national champion Alabama, along with SEC opponents Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Duke, North Carolina and Virginia will represent the ACC, and California, Southern California and UCLA make up the PAC-12 contingent. Denver, Oklahoma, Purdue and Tulane round out the field.
South Carolina will head to Athens with the same lineup it had to open the season. Senior Meredith Swanson, juniors Suzie Lee and Samantha Swinehart, sophomore Justine Dreher and freshman Sarah Schmelzel are slated to tee off on Friday. Schmelzel enters the weekend leading the team in scoring average (73.00) after finishing in a tie for 30th in her collegiate debut at the Cougar Classic.
As a team South Carolina placed 16th at the Cougar Classic. After giving up several strokes with some struggles with putting and chipping, the Gamecocks have put a major emphasis on short game in practice leading up to the Fall Preview.
"It's something that I take a lot of pride in as a coach and is something that our program in general takes pride in," Harris said. "With a young team, it's something that the freshmen need to get better at as they come in. We work on it consistently throughout the year. I am pleased with the work and dedication I've seen so far."
South Carolina will look to continue its long history of success at the UGA Golf Course this weekend. In 2002, the Gamecocks claimed the program's first and only SEC Championship in Athens with a school-record three-day total of 861. Kristy McPherson's 209 (-7) led the way and earned her medalist honors for the second straight season. In 2008, Benedicte Toumpsin won medalist honors at the NCAA East Regional in Athens. The Gamecocks also played in the 1993 NCAA Championship at the UGA Golf Course and finished 12th, which is the third best championship finish in school history.
The Gamecocks will be paired with California and North Carolina for the first round and will tee off beginning at 9:40 a.m. on hole No. 10. Live scoring will be available by clicking here.
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