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Sep 6, 2013

Cougar ClassicGet Acrobat Reader | Live Scoring

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina Women’s Golf team opens the 2013-14 season on Sunday at the Cougar Classic, in Hanahan, S.C. The 54-hole event runs through Tuesday at Yeamans Hall Club, which features a par-72, 6,204-yard layout. As head Coach Kalen Harris enters her seventh season with the Gamecocks she’s looking forward to returning to the Cougar Classic.

“It’s sort of been our opening tournament every year and it’s generally a great way to start the season,” Harris said. “It’s a golf course that you can generally go low on, a lot of reachable par fives, very scoreable and generally a place where some of our kids can get off to a good start. It’s a great event, especially being so close to Columbia.”

The Gamecocks earned a preseason ranking of No. 20 by Golfweek after coming off another stellar year, finishing third at the SEC Championship and making their fourth consecutive NCAA championship appearance under Harris in 2012-13.

The summer was productive for South Carolina as several golfers participated in a variety of events. Junior Justine Dreher advanced to the Final 16 at the Ladies’ British Amateur, finished tied for third at the Swiss Am and made it to match play as a member of Team France at the European Ladies’ Amateur Team Championship. Sophomore Sarah Schmelzel finished tied for fifth at Trans National Amateur Championship and freshman Katelyn Dambaugh advanced to the round of 32 at the US Amateur Championship.

“A lot of our players played very well [this summer]” Harris said. “We’ve seen a lot of solid rounds and it’s very competitive. I think everyone is feeding off each other and everybody seems to be ready to go this year, which is good to see.”

South Carolina returns six letterwinners from last year’s squad including two seniors, Suzie Lee and Samantha Swinehart and Harris is extremely pleased with what she’s seen from them so far.

“Sam has really come out of the gate strong and she’s ready to go,” Harris said. “She has looked really solid. Her iron play looks amazing and she’s capable of making a lot of birdies.”

Swinehart competed in eight events last year and had a scoring average of 76.71. Her season-best finish was tied for 12th at the Tar Heel Invitational in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“Suzie in one of the qualifiers put a low round out, had 68,” said Harris. “They both look like they’ve done some work and I’m pleased on that end.”

Lee competed in all 11 tournaments in 2012-13 and had a scoring average of 75.42. Her best finish was tied for 14th at the NCAA West Regional in Stanford, Calif., which helped lead the Gamecocks to a fourth-place team finish, advancing them to the NCAA Championship.

Also returning this season are sophomores Chelsey Couch and Mary Fran Hillow, Dreher and Schmelzel. Couch participated in five events a year ago and had a scoring average of 76.92. Hillow played in seven events and had a scoring average of 77.59. Dreher and Schmelzel both competed in all 11 tournaments, their respective scoring averages were 75.47 and a team best 74.78. Dreher finished tied for third at the SEC Championship and placed in the top 15 at The Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C., and the UCF Challenge in Sorrento, Fla. Schmelzel finished third at the Bryan National Collegiate in Greensboro, N.C., and tied for eighth at the SEC Championship.

The Gamecocks welcome two newcomers this season, Dambaugh and Jia Xin Yang. Harris says she is excited to see both girls play at South Carolina.

Katelyn Dambaugh is a very strong player, extremely talented, and she’s very exciting to watch,” Harris remarks. “I think she’s [Dambaugh] going to be somebody has the opportunity to break a lot of our records here. She’s fun and exciting to watch, the kid hits it long way, she’s really talented and the sky is the limit for her.”

Dambaugh a native of Goose Creek, S.C., played on the girls and boys teams at Pinewood Prep earning several accolades and helped lead both teams to South Carolina State Championships including back-to-back titles for the boys team in 2011 and 2012.

Yang comes to South Carolina from Beijing, China, and Harris feels she will bring experience and consistency to the team. “She’s very experienced all over the world and been very successful at a high level,” says Harris. “I’m looking forward to watching her succeed here, she’s very talented.”

Harris is excited for the talent and the depth of her squad this season. “Everybody from top to bottom has come in here ready to play and looks competition ready,” she says. “That’s not always the way it’s been. They definitely came in prepared this year so I’m pleased with what I see.”

Dambaugh will be at the top of this week’s lineup, which also features seniors Lee and Swinehart, as well as sophomores Hillow and Schmelzel. Dreher will also compete in the tournament as an independent.

This is the Gamecocks’ sixth trip to the Cougar Classic and will be the fourth straight time it has marked the start to their season. Last year South Carolina finished 16th with a three-round total of 899 (+35). Schmelzel had the best finish as she tied for 30th with rounds of 75-72-72 (+3).

Out of the 20 teams participating in this year’s Cougar Classic, 15 competed in the 2013 NCAA Regionals and four boast national rankings in the Golf World/WGCA Coaches’ Preseason Division I Poll. No. 10 Florida highlights the field and will look to defend its 2012 title. Joining Florida in the rankings are No. 20 NC State, No. 22 LSU and No. 24 Baylor.

Clemson will participate in the tournament this year as the Tigers begin the first season of their women’s golf program.

“It will our first time facing Clemson and it will be Clemson’s first event. They’re another good, solid team in the field,” said Harris. “They have a really good player, Ashlan Ramsey, who is coming off an unbelievable summer. They’re just another team in the field and we’re going out to play the entire field. We’ve set our goals, we’re going to focus on us and let the rest take care of itself.”

Rounding out the field are Auburn, Charleston Southern, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina, Furman, Maryland, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, UNCG, Penn State, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Wisconsin.

First round play begins Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Live scoring will be available at