One of the Southeastern Conference’s and nation’s up-and-coming teams looks to build on a solid 2000-01 season after a underclassmen-filled squad advanced to the pinnacle of college golf – the 2001 NCAA Championships.
But advancing to the championships is not enough for Head Coach Lady Gamecocks and her returning corps of players.
South Carolina is looking to repeat its performance at last year’s SEC and NCAA Championships, but are hoping for more high level of consistency throughout the entire spring season. With only one senior and two juniors on the squad, the Lady Gamecocks will look to its younger players to help lead the team to an SEC Championship. But a returning upperclassman is again the key component to the 2002 success for South Carolina.
Junior Kristy McPherson had arguably the best season ever for a South Carolina women’s golfer last year. The Conway, S.C., native captured the SEC Championship with a record-breaking (SEC, USC) score, had an amazing eight Top 10 finishes and broke school records for low tournament score (207), low single round score (67) and season stroke average (73.67). And, by the way, McPherson became Carolina’s first-ever, first team All-American.
McPherson had a solid fall season which started out quickly as she won the Dodge ACC/SEC shootout to open fall action. She ended the fall tying for 10th at the Lady Paladin Invitational in the 2001 fall season. McPherson fired 13 rounds under par and had five top five finishes. She led the team in the fall with a 74.44 average, shooting three rounds below par. McPherson’s play is a major key to the Lady Gamecocks’ success in the postseason this year.
Senior Reetta Laakkonen and junior Kacy Thompson are the two other upperclassmen who return for Coggins this season. Laakkonen is hoping her senior leadership will rub off on the younger players while she showed signs of improvement by firing four out of six rounds in the 70s in the fall season. Thompson is coming off a positive 2001 season where she averaged 79.09 per round with a low round of 71 at the Bryan National Collegiate. She is looking for a good start in the spring after a tough fall season, although the Columbia native finished the fall strong by firing two rounds of 77 at the Lady Paladin Invitational.
Sophomores Adrienne Gautreaux, Marci Robinson and Kory Thompson have given the Lady Gamecocks excellent play this fall. Gautreaux, a newcomer from Mabank, Tex., finished fourth at the Dodge ACC/SEC Shootout where she fired a low round of 72. She is second on the team coming into the spring with a 79.11 scoring average and combines with Kory Thompson and McPherson to give USC a solid 1-2-3 punch at the top of the lineup.
Kory Thompson and Robinson gave the Lady Gamecocks a spark as freshmen a year ago. Thompson, the younger sister of Kacy, played in six tournaments last year, averaging a score of 80.27, firing a low round of 74 at the Lady Paladin . She has picked up where she left off so far this year averaging 79.11 per round, repeating her good showing at the Lady Paladin where she fired a final round of 73 last fall.
Robinson was a pleasant surprise for Coggins last spring as she finished strong – tying for 20th in the SEC Championships as a freshman, posting a season low 73 in the second round. Robinson has battled her way back through an injury and hopes to regain her high level of play in the spring. She played in two of the three tournaments in the fall, firing a low round of 78 at the Lady Paladin Invitational.
The Gamecocks look for contributions from a pair of freshmen: Tiffany Catafygiotu and Erin Hallman. Catafygiotu has already seen action in the fall at the Lady Paladin Invitational where she fired a three-day total of 249. Hallman expects to contribute in the upcoming spring season.
The Lady Gamecocks again play one of the nation’s most challenging schedules in the spring after a strong fall slate. USC finished fourth at the ACC/SEC Challenge and a respectable 13th at one of the nation’s most prestigious tournaments – the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate. Carolina finished the fall with a 14th place showing at the Lady Paladin, and are poised and ready for a spring run.
USC starts the semester at the SunTrust Lady Gator Invitational and after playing for the first time at the Spartan Invitational in Salinas, Calif, Carolina welcomes quite possibly its best field ever to the Lady Gamecock Classic, Mar. 15-17, at The University Club in Blythewood. Nine of the 15 teams in the tournament are ranked in the preseason top 25, including four-time defending champion Duke.