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May 8, 2010

Coach Anderson
Katie Burnett

GREENVILLE, N.C. – It finally all came together.

After going five years without a team tournament victory of any kind and coming perilously close on a few occasions this season, the South Carolina women’s golf team took down some of the nation’s best teams in winning the NCAA East Regional on Saturday, posting a 54-hole score of 864 (E) to defeat Tennessee by two shots.

The key component of the Gamecocks’ team victory came in the person of sophomore Katie Burnett, who shot a closing round of 71 (-1) to earn medalist honors for the first time in her collegiate career with a 3-day total of 210 (-6), one shot ahead of Auburn’s Carlie Yadloczky.

“I’m really proud of them,” coach Kalen Anderson said. “They played really steady for three days, and played very well under really windy conditions today. We’ve been knocking on the door for a couple of tournaments now where they’ve been close and just haven’t finished one, but they finished one at the right time (today) and I’m really proud of them.”

The Gamecocks posted the best team round of the final day at 290 (+2) to overcome a five-shot deficit entering Saturday’s third round. Duke, who led after two rounds of play, fell back to a tie for third after a closing round of 300 (+12). Tennessee, meanwhile, traded the lead with South Carolina and Duke for most of the day, but struggled down the stretch to post a final-day score of 296 (+8).

Carolina traded the lead back and forth with Duke, Tennessee, Auburn and Pepperdine throughout the day, but it appeared late in the day that it would come down to a duel with the Lady Vols. But the Gamecocks, as a team, were 3-under over their final three holes of the day while Tennessee was 1-over in that same stretch on the back nine, including one double-bogey at 18 that proved to be the difference.

Burnett was steady as a rock throughout the day and throughout the tournament. On a day when par was a very good score, the sophomore from Brunswick, Ga., had 15 of them. She first moved into red figures with a birdie at the dogleg-left par-4 14th, then saw a putt at the 18th just miss as she made the turn at 1-under. She faced a tough start to the more-exposed front nine as she fought her way out of a fairway bunker to make bogey at No. 2, then had a birdie putt at No. 4 lip out. She took dead aim at the par-5 seventh hole to card what would be the clinching birdie, then made pars at the eighth and ninth to hold on for the victory.

“To be honest, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Burnett said. “I’m still a little speechless at the moment. But I really couldn’t be happier. I missed a few putts here and there, but I knew that if I kept playing the way I was playing, a few putts would fall coming down to the end.”

Coming to the ninth and final hole, Burnett hit her approach past the flag to about 12 feet, but didn’t know if she needed to make it to secure the victory. It turned out that all she needed was a two-putt for par, and that’s what she managed to do as the awaiting Gamecock team stormed the green for hugs and high-fives all around.

Burnett’s round of 210 ties for the fifth-best 54-hole individual total in school history, equaling an effort by Siew-Ai Lim at the 1994 Carolyn Cudone Invitational. In addition to becoming the 12th different Gamecock women’s golfer to win an individual title, she is the third to win an NCAA East Regional. Teammate Benedicte Toumpsin won the 2008 event in Athens, Ga., and Lim was the medalist at the 1995 regional in Memphis, Tenn.

But it wasn’t just Burnett’s effort that led to the 17th team title in program history. Toumpsin turned in her second-straight round of even-par 72 to post a three-day total of 218 (+2) and a 19th-place finish. She started off her final round with eight consecutive pars before coming to the 18th hole that had been a death trap for the Gamecocks all week. The pond down the left side claimed Toumpsin’s tee shot, and she settled for a bogey to make the turn at 1-over. She would get that stroke right back at No. 1 with a birdie, then rolled off five more pars before running into trouble at No. 7. After an errant drive forced a layup, she hit her third shot into the hazard. But somehow, she was able to get up and down for bogey to minimize the damage. And once again, she fought right back for a birdie at No. 8 to get back to even par; a par at the ninth finished a strong day.

Senior Corrine Carr was the second-highest finisher for the Gamecocks, fighting her way to a closing 74 (+2) to finish at 217 (+1) overall, tying for 13th place. Carr fought off bogeys at 12 and 13 by making back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, then dropped another shot after a three-putt bogey at 16. She would hold on to par 17 and 18, then rolled off three more pars before bogeys at the windswept fourth and fifth holes. She would get one shot back with birdie at the seventh, then made two pars to close. Her 54-hole total of 217 equals a career-best, which previously came at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate earlier this season.

Amanda Strang recovered from a tough 79 in Friday’s second round to sign for a 73 (+1) Saturday, a six-shot improvement for the freshman. Standing 2-over after bogeys at 11 and 18, she finally got one stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fifth. A bogey at No. 6 dropped her back to 2-over, then she made back-to-back birdies at the par-5 seventh and the lengthy par-3 eighth. However, a missed four-footer at nine kept her from level par as she finished 1-over for the day, 6-over for the week.

Taylor Barrett, the third senior on the Gamecock roster, was consistent throughout the week as she carded rounds of 76 (+4) all three days. A bogey-birdie start preceded six straight pars to keep her even as she came to the 18th. As with two of her teammates, she found rough going on the course’s closing hole and made bogey to make the turn at 1-over. The wind got the best of her on the opening holes of the front nine as she made bogey on Nos. 1, 2 and 5, but recovered to post four straight pars to close a solid tournament.

South Carolina will join fellow SEC schools Tennessee, Auburn and Vanderbilt in advancing to the NCAA Championship, which runs May 18-21 at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C. Other schools advancing from the East Regional include Duke, Tulane, Pepperdine and TCU. Burnett’s victory came by one shot over Auburn’s Carlie Yadloczky, with Texas Tech’s Rosalyn Kim earning the individual invitation to the NCAA Championships with her third-place finish at 4-under. First-round leader Nina Muehl of East Tennessee State tied for fourth place at 3-under with Tennessee freshman Erica Popson, the SEC runner-up.

Ironwood Country Club, Greenville, N.C.
Par 72 • 6,321 Yards

1. Katie Burnett – 67-72-71=210 (-6)
T13. Corrine Carr – 72-71-74=217 (+1)
T19. Benedicte Toumpsin – 74-72-72=218 (+2)
T39. Amanda Strang – 70-79-73=222 (+6)
T73. Taylor Barrett – 76-76-76=228 (+12)

1. SOUTH CAROLINA – 283-281-290=864 (E)

2. Tennessee – 283-287-296=866 (+2)
T3. Auburn – 280-295-293=868 (+4)
T3. Duke – 290-278-300=868 (+4)
5. Vanderbilt – 292-287-292=871 (+7)
6. Tulane – 285-295-293=873 (+9)
7. Pepperdine – 281-290-306=877 (+13)
8. TCU – 287-296-297=880 (+16)
——–Failed to qualify———
T9. Texas Tech – 285-298-304=887 (+23)
T9. Wake Forest – 296-295-296=887 (+23)
11. Florida – 284-297-309=890 (+26)
12. East Carolina – 293-305-297=895 (+31)
13. North Carolina – 294-292-313=899 (+35)
14. Campbell – 297-307-298=902 (+38)
15. East Tennessee State – 285-304-314=903 (+39)
16. Furman – 305-296-303=904 (+40)
17. Washington – 305-295-307=907 (+43)
18. Chattanooga – 293-301-316=910 (+46)
T19. Stetson – 298-306-307=911 (+47)
T19. Coastal Carolina – 307-296-308=911 (+47)
21. Georgia State – 290-310-317=917 (+53)
22. College of Charleston – 297-310-314=921 (+57)
23. Charleston Southern – 315-318-315=948 (+84)
24. Farleigh Dickinson – 327-331-332=990 (+126)