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April 20, 2002

ATHENS, Ga. – The 25th-ranked South Carolina women’s golf team fired its best team score ever Saturday afternoon (a six-under 282) and has forged a tie with top-ranked Auburn with 18 holes to play in the Southeastern Conference Women’s Golf Championships at the University of Georgia Golf Course. USC and Auburn (at five-under 571 for the tournament) are six strokes ahead of No. 9 Tennessee, while South Carolina junior Kristy McPherson (three-under 69 Saturday, six-under 138 total) continues her mastery of the SEC field with a three-stroke lead entering the final day of competition on the par 72, 6,104-yard course.

The final round gets underway at 8:30 a.m. Sunday with the Lady Gamecocks, Auburn and Tennessee teeing off at 9:20 a.m. from the No. 1 tee.

South Carolina school records are falling left and right as the Lady Gamecocks are well ahead of the pace for the school’s best three-round team total ever. USC’s best team score ever was a 884 in the 2000 Lady Paladin Invitational and Carolina – which has shot rounds of 289 and 282 thus far – needs to shoot just a 312 or better Sunday to break that mark. Individually, junior Kacy Thompson had a two-under 70 Saturday and senior Reetta Laakkonen a one-under 71 as Thompson tied and Laakkonen set marks for career-best rounds. USC’s 289 and 282 scores thus far are by far the best tallies of the season after Carolina had just four sub-300 rounds (best being a 295 in the Lady Gamecock Classic first round) in eight tournaments entering this weekend’s championships.

“Our players are playing with a lot of focus and determination,” said Head Coach Kristy Coggins. They are being really aggressive but are making smart decisions. We are exactly where we planned to be in playing for title on the last day. It’s great to watch it work our for them (the players). They are playing calm, controlled and confident, but we still have one more day of goals to reach.

“Kristy has been playing with determination with great execution. She plays to win and is a competitor. Plus she’s playing against players she wants to defeat the most. But she wants the team to win so badly that she’s not even focused on what she’s doing individually, and that’s a tribute to her.”

“I’ve been playing pretty well lately,” said McPherson. Just getting here to the tournament got me pumped up, but today, I saw Kacy (Thompson) in front of me make four birdies in a row and that really got me going. My putting has been better. I got a lesson last week and now I’m feeling very confident. All the scores here are low, so it comes down to who can make putts and I feel really confident standing over the ball right now.”

McPherson is on a pace never before seen in SEC women’s golf history. Last season, the Conway, S.C., native had a first-round 67 and crushed both the SEC and USC three-round record with nine-under 207 in capturing medalist honors. She has back-to-back, three-under 69 scores thus far (138 total) and enters Sunday’s final round with a three-stroke lead over Auburn’s Celeste Troche and five-consecutive sub-par rounds in SEC Championships action. She has led the SEC Championships every day since last year’s 67 in the first round and is on pace to become just the second women’s golfer in SEC history to record back-to-back individual championships. Florida’s Deb Richard captured three-straight titles from 1982 through 1984.

The Lady Gamecocks got solid play from top to bottom in picking up nine strokes over the top-ranked Tigers, who have won five of nine tournaments this season and have finished second in the other four competitions. McPherson has a two-day 138 total to lead the charge, and after Thompson’s two-under 70, the Columbia native is tied for fourth at two-under 142. Sophomore Adrienne Gautreaux had an even-par 72 and is tied for 13th at three-over 147. Rounding out the USC individuals are Laakkonen (71 Saturday, 152 total) and sophomore Marci Robinson (79, 152) who are tied for 25th place.

South Carolina and Auburn have a two-day, five-under 571 total and have a six-stroke lead on Tennessee (577) entering Sunday’s final round. The rest of the field is well back with Florida (593) and Vanderbilt (594) rounding out the top five. The Lady Vols matched South Carolina’s six-under 282 for the day’s best round – a 13-stroke improvement from their 295 Friday.

Individually, McPherson leads Troche and Tennessee’s Young-A Yang by three strokes. Troche and Yang have 141 totals with Thompson and Tennessee’s Tina Schneeberger tying for fourth place at two-under 142. Ten of the 60 individuals competing in the tournament have scores at even-par 144 or better entering the final round.


T  1   South Carolina, U of     289  282   962   1    Kristy McPherson         69   69   138T  4    Kacy Thompson            72   70   142T 13    Adrienne Gautreaux       75   72   147T 25    Reetta Laakkonen         81   71   152T 25    Marci Robinson           73   79   152