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Sept. 9, 2011

Coach Harris

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina women’s golf team is set to open its 2011-12 season on Sunday at the Cougar Classic. The tournament runs through Tuesday at Yeamans Hall Club in Hanahan, S.C.

The Gamecocks, who are coming off a fifth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference Championship and a second straight appearance in the NCAA Championship, are anxious to tee it up on Sunday after wrapping up preseason practice this week.

“We’ve been working hard the last few weeks and just finished up our qualifying,” said head coach Kalen Harris, who enters her fifth season at South Carolina. “We are expecting some quick greens down at Yeamans Hall.

“It’s always a great way to start our fall season. The golf course is a course that we are familiar with. We’ve been there several times. Generally, our team plays very well on that golf course, so we are really looking forward to starting our fall there.”

South Carolina’s lineup for the Cougar Classic will feature five familiar names with the return of every letter winner from a year ago. Senior Katie Burnett will lead the way, while juniors Amanda Strang and Meredith Swanson and sophomores Katie Rose Higgins and Samantha Swinehart will compete at Yeamans Hall Club.

Burnett, a 2010 All-American, led the team in scoring for a second straight year last season with a stroke average of 75.03. Her career scoring average of 74.59 ranks tied for second in school history with former teammate Benedicte Toumpsin. Burnett will look to improve on last year’s tie for fourth finish in the Cougar Classic, where she posted rounds of 75-69-70=214 (-2) for the ninth best 54-hole score in program history.

Katie Burnett has been an All-American,” Harris said. “She brings a lot to our lineup. She brings quite a bit of leadership and experience.”

Strang has not missed a lineup in two years as a Gamecock, and her career scoring average of 76.51 ranks seventh in school history. Swanson has competed in 10 career tournaments, and her tie for 17th finish at last year’s Cougar Classic was her best collegiate showing. Higgins and Swinehart return for their sophomore campaigns after playing in all 11 events a year ago and earning SEC All-Freshman honors.

The Gamecocks, who claimed fourth at the Cougar Classic in 2010 with a three-round total of 873 (+9), will be making their fourth appearance in the event.

This year’s field will give South Carolina a challenging start to the season, as nine of the 22 teams are ranked in the Golf World/NGCA preseason top 25. No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 LSU highlight the field, while No. 7 Duke, No. 9 North Carolina, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 14 Wake Forest, No. 15 Vanderbilt, No. 16 Florida and No. 17 Georgia round out the ranked teams competing in Hanahan. Mississippi makes it eight SEC schools at the tournament, and in-state rivals Furman, Charleston Southern and host College of Charleston will also be teeing it up at Yeamans Hall Club.

The Gamecocks will be paired with Wake Forest and Tennessee for the first two rounds and will tee off on Sunday at 8 a.m. on hole No. 10. Live scoring is available at