March 29, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina women’s golf team is set to open play in its third tournament of the spring on Friday as it travels to Athens, Ga. for the 40th Annual Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic.
The 54-hole event runs through Sunday at the University of Georgia Golf Course, which features a par-72, 6,335-yard layout.
The Gamecocks have only one tournament remaining after this weekend before they prepare for the SEC Championship, which will be held on April 20-22 in Fayetteville, Ark. South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said it’s important for her team to play well the next two weeks.
“We are trying to build momentum every time we play going into the postseason,” Harris said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to do that most of the time since I’ve been here. We are focusing on the right things in practice, and the important thing is that we peak. We can’t put to much pressure on it, but it’s getting to be crunch time. The only thing we can do is get better every day and put forth our maximum effort.”
Carolina will be competing with its third different lineup this spring, as senior Katie Burnett, juniors Meredith Swanson and Amanda Strang and sophomores Katie Rose Higgins and Samantha Swinehart will make the trip to Athens. Freshman Justine Dreher will also compete as an individual.
Burnett, who is playing in her 34th straight tournament for the Gamecocks, has moved to first on the career scoring list at South Carolina with a stroke average of 74.37. She led Carolina with a sixth-place finish at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate earlier this month with a two-round score of 143 (+1). As a team, the Gamecocks finished eighth.
Swanson and Strang are each making their second start of the spring. Swanson enters the weekend with the third-best stroke average on the team with an average of 75.71, while Strang isn’t far behind with an average of 75.76. Higgins has qualified to start for the first time since the fall, and Swinehart is making her fifth straight start.
The Gamecocks’ lineup has a combined six career appearances at the Liz Murphey Classic, with Burnett and Strang leading the way with two each. Burnett’s tie for 20th showing in 2010 is the best among the current Gamecocks. At last year’s tournament, the Gamecocks finished 18th with rounds of 296-313-285=894 (+30).
The Liz Murphey Classic is one of the premier events in collegiate golf, and this year’s field is among the toughest yet again. Of the 17 teams competing, 13 are ranked in the Golfweek Top 50. Second-ranked Alabama headlines the field, followed by No. 7 Auburn, No. 12 Georgia, No. 16 Florida, No. 23 Michigan State, No. 25 Florida State, No. 26 Oklahoma, the 27th-ranked Gamecocks, No. 28 Virginia, No. 33 Purdue, No. 36 Arkansas, No. 40 Denver and No. 46 Wake Forest. Kent State, Notre Dame and Missouri are also competing.
Carolina will look to continue its long history of success at the UGA Golf Course this weekend. In 2002, the Gamecocks claimed the program’s first and only SEC Championship with a school-record three-day total of 861 at the UGA Golf Course. Kristy McPherson’s 209 (-7) led the way and earned her medalist honors for the second straight season. In 2008, Benedicte Toumpsin won medalist honors at the NCAA East Regional. The Gamecocks also played in the 1993 NCAA Championship at the UGA Golf Course and finished 12th, which is the second-best championship finish in school history.
Carolina is paired with Arkansas and Michigan State for Friday’s first round and will tee off on hole No. 1 beginning at 9 a.m. Live scoring will be available at golfstatresults.com.