April 21, 2002
ATHENS, Ga. – The 25th-ranked South Carolina women’s golf team did something never before accomplished in its history Sunday as the Lady Gamecocks shot a two-over 290 and with a three-day 861 total captured its first-ever Southeastern Conference Championship by three stokes over top-ranked Auburn in the SEC Women’s Golf Championship at the University of Georgia Golf Course.
And while the Lady Gamecocks were posting their first team title, junior All-America Kristy McPherson made it a clean sweep as she became just the second SEC women’s golfer ever to win back-to-back individual medalist honors. McPherson had a one-under 71 Sunday and with a three-day 209, won the title by two strokes over Vanderbilt’s Nicki Cutler. She continued her mastery of the SEC Tournament by posting her sixth-straight sub-par round in the SECs and after opening last year’s tournament with a five-under 67, has led each round in the SEC Championships over the last two seasons. The only other SEC women’s golfer ever to earn the SEC individual title in back-to-back seasons was Florida’s Deb Richard, who won three-consecutive crowns from 1982-84.
“It was magic. I’m so proud of the ladies,” said Head Coach Kristi Coggins. “They played with so much heart and fought until the final put dropped. It was neck and neck and (hole) No. 17 was a nemesis for us all week, but getting by 17 (USC shot even par as team Sunday on the hole) was the real triumph. We felt like we could come in here and win, and knew we had to get by Auburn, Tennessee and other great teams. Our goal was to be in contention coming into the final round because we have played so well all spring on the last day.
“Kristy McPherson – what a great leader and a winner. She was so busy playing for the team that the individual honor was secondary. She’s a special lady.”
The Lady Gamecocks picked the right time to put together their best tournament of golf in school history. South Carolina’s 861 three-day total didn’t just crush the school record for team tournament score (previously an 884 at the 2000 Lady Paladin Invitational), it was three strokes better than the SEC Championships record of 864 set by Georgia at the 1988 classic at Gulf Breeze, Fla. Prior to this weekend, USC had just four sub-300 rounds all season with its best being a 295 in the first round of the Lady Gamecock Classic, Carolina shot all three of its rounds at 290 or below in this weekend’s tournament.
“Every putt … every shot … all I wanted to do was make it for the team. We were in contention but were behind after the front nine because no one played it well. But Adrienne (Gautreaux), Reetta (Laakkonen) and I all played the final nine in two-under. (About comparing this year’s feeling to last year’s after she won the individual crown) This year is so much better because the team won. It was awesome last year – don’t get me wrong – but I get to share it with the team this season. I was thinking about team honors all weekend, and it just so happened that the individual victory came around.”
Individually, the Carolina performance across the board was the key to the Lady Gamecocks’ success in the tournament. Senior Reetta Laakkonen easily posted her best career rounds as her one-under 71 tied yesterday’s score for her lowest career round ever.
In the team competition, South Carolina shot its highest score of the tournament, but played a solid back nine to recapture the lead and hold on. USC stood at five-over par after the first nine holes and fell three strokes back of No. 9 Tennessee, which shot an eight-under par team score on the front side. But Tennessee cooled down and the Lady Gamecocks played the back nine collectively at three-under to win the title. USC’s 861 was three strokes ahead of top-ranked Auburn (864) as Carolina handed the Tigers their fifth second-place showing on the year to go along with their five tournament victories. Tennessee finished with a one-over 289 Sunday and was five strokes back of Carolina with an 866 total. Vanderbilt had the best round of the afternoon (seven-under 281) and finished fourth with an 875 while host and No. 10 Georgia rounded out the top five with an 888 team total.
In the individual competition, McPherson got a scare from Vanderbilt’s Nicki Cutler, who finished before McPherson and was in the clubhouse with a five-under 211 after a 67 Sunday. Tied with Cutler entering the final six holes, McPherson carded three birdies down the stretch and earned the win with a three-day 209. The 209 is the second-best individual three-round score in SEC Tournament history, two strokes back of McPherson’s own 207 in last year’s tournament.
Cutler finished in second place with a five-under 211 and was followed by Auburn’s Troche and Tennessee’s Young-A Yang, each who fired a four-under 212. LSU’s Meredith Duncan and Tennessee’s Mary Jan Fernandez rounded out the top five with identical, one-under 215 scores.
The South Carolina women were paced by McPherson, who had a three-day 209 total. Junior Kacy Thompson of Columbia fell from fourth to 15th place Sunday with a 79 (219 total). Junior Adrienne Gautreaux had a three-over 75 Sunday and finished tied for 17th place at 222. Laakkonen had a three-day 223 total and finished tied for 18th place, while sophomore Marci Robinson had a one-over 73 and tied for 22nd place.
South Carolina now awaits word in early May as to where the Lady Gamecocks will head in next month’s NCAA Regional Championhships.
SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS
T 1 South Carolina, U of 289 282 290 861 1 Kristy McPherson 69 69 71 209T 15 Kacy Thompson 72 70 79 221 17 Adrienne Gautreaux 75 72 75 222T 18 Reetta Laakkonen 81 71 71 223T 22 Marci Robinson 73 79 73 225