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Oct. 10, 2013

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s golf team will face some of its toughest competition of the season this weekend when it opens play on Friday at the Tar Heel Invitational in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The 54-hole event runs through Sunday at the par-72, 6,285 yard UNC Finley Golf Course.

The 18-team field features four of the top five teams in the Golf World/NGCA Division I College Women’s Coaches’ Poll, as No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Duke, and No. 5 Florida will all make the trip to Chapel Hill. Of the 18 teams in the tournament 12 are ranked in the top-25 including the Gamecocks at No. 24, No. 8 Arkansas, in-state rival and No. 11 Clemson, host and No. 15 North Carolina, No. 16 Virginia, No. 19 Vanderbilt, and No. 20 Michigan State. Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Mississippi, Notre Dame and Wake Forest round out the field. Ten of the twelve ranked in the Golf World/NGCA Division I College Women’s Coaches’ Poll are also ranked in the Golfstat top-25 including South Carolina at No. 16.

“It is a strong field and that’s something we continue to do is put ourselves against the best competition in the country,” said head coach Kalen Harris. “It allows us to keep preparing for the post season and that’s always something I love to do. We just want to keep progressing and obviously see improvement. I think we’ve got a great chance to contend. Four of the top five teams in the country will be there so we definitely have an extremely deep field. We’re going to go in there and focus on ourselves and what we can do and hopefully the score at the end puts us in a good position to contend.”

The Gamecocks’ lineup will again feature a mix of the six golfers who have competed this season. After placing in the top-10 at the first two tournaments, senior Samantha Swinehart will hold the top spot in the lineup. Sophomore Mary Fran Hillow will be No. 2, followed by freshman Katelyn Dambaugh at No. 3 and sophomore Sarah Schmelzel at No. 4. Junior Justine Dreher will take the last spot in the lineup and senior Suzie Lee will compete as an individual.

“I feel good [about this team], said Harris. “We’re obviously building some momentum, we had a great week in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago and we’re ready to get going here again.”

South Carolina is coming off a stellar performance at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship, which included a second-place team finish, and four individual top-15 finishes. Swinehart led the Garnet and Black and recorded a career-best second-place finish after shooting a 2-under 140. Hillow also recorded a career-best finish coming in at seventh with a score of 141 (-1). Dambaugh led the tournament after the first round as she shot a 3-under 68, she finished with an even-par 142 to tie for 8th in just her second collegiate appearance. Sophomore Sarah Schmelzel, who competed in the tournament as an individual, tied for 12th with a score of 143 (+1). Senior Suzie Lee finished in a tie for 32nd, junior Justine Dreher tied for 39th place after turning in 2-round score of 148 (+6) and 149 (+7), respectively.

This marks South Carolina’s 26th trip to the Tar Heel Invitational. Last season the Gamecocks finished in a tie for 12th place with a 3-round score of 910 (+46). Swinehart led the team with two rounds of par to finish in a tie for twelfth place and Schmelzel carded one round of par to tie for 25th place. The Gamecocks best finish at the tournament came in 1998 as they tied for third

First round play is scheduled to begin Friday at 8:51 a.m. Live scoring will be available Here