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Feb. 12, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Top-ranked South Carolina begins its spring season this weekend at the Florida State Match-Up in Tallahassee, Fla. The 54-hole event hosted by Florida State runs Friday through Sunday at the par-72, 7,172-yard SouthWood Golf Course. The Gamecocks captured the title in their first appearance at the event last February and returned to the course for the NCAA East Regional later in the spring to capture a second-place finish.

Dates: Fri., Feb. 13 – Sun., Feb. 15
Location: Tallahassee, Fla.
Course: SouthWood Golf Course
Format: 54-hole stroke play + Match-Up Component
The Lineup: Sarah Schmelzel, Justine Dreher, Mary Fran Hillow, Katelyn Dambaugh, Ainhoa Olarra
The Field: Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Florida State, Furman, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Troy, Virginia
Live Scoring: GolfStat

Tournament Notes Get Acrobat Reader

This weekend’s field features four top-15 teams with No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 15 Virginia joining No.1 South Carolina in Tallahassee. In the fall, the Gamecocks faced just four opponents in this weekend’s field, posting a 5-0 record overall against ETSU, Furman, Missouri and Virginia.

The Gamecocks are set to play a new combination this weekend. In the top spot, junior Sarah Schmelzel returns to play after missing the fall due to injury. Senior Justine Dreher, junior Mary Fran Hillow and sophomore Katelyn Dambaugh follow Schmelzel, and freshman Ainhoa Olarra makes her debut in the South Carolina line up in the fifth spot. After a stellar fall campaign, that featured a win at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate and four top-10 finishes, freshman Nanna Madsen elected to forgo her remaining eligibility and declare her professional status.

“We’ve been doing the same things we’ve done all year long and in the past. We have had success moving into the spring in the last few seasons,” South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris said. “So, we’ve been playing a lot, and working on our wedge game, short game and scoring game. We’ve just been trying to get ready for our first event and to contend for the title at FSU.

In addition to crowning a team and individual champion, this weekend’s event also has a Match-Up component. The twelve teams will tee off in twosomes for the first two rounds and then in a final round shotgun in threesomes. The twosomes will consist of the partner teams playing together. This year the partners are as follows: Florida State/Texas A&M, Mississippi State/Missouri, South Carolina/Virginia, Troy/Kennesaw State, Furman/Coastal Carolina, Georgia State/East Tennessee State. The Match-Up Portion of the tournament will be determined by taking the best four scores from the partners (which is a total of ten players) and the worst score to make the Match-Up total.

Last February, South Carolina made their first trip to the FSU Match-Up and took home the trophy by two strokes (293-293-285=871, +7) after holding off rival Clemson (297-292-284=873, +9) down the stretch. All five Gamecocks finished in the top 16 with Schmelzel leading the way in the runner-up spot at 4-under (70-72-70=212). South Carolina returned to a shortened course at the SouthWood Golf Club later in the season for the NCAA East Regional and posted a second-place finish with a 54-hole total of 854 (-10) to advance to the NCAA Championship for the fifth-straight year.

“We just want to build on the success we’ve had there. We do know the golf course. We played there last year and won this event, so we’ll be defending our title,” Harris added. “We also played the (NCAA) Regional there last year as well and placed second. We have good memories there. I believe Ainhoa is the only one that has not played the golf course, so we do have experience on the course. We’ll know some of the green complexes, which will be helpful. We’ve do have some great memories, so hopefully we’ll be able to build off the knowledge that we do have of the golf course and go out there and do our best.”

South Carolina will look to keep the momentum going after the best fall in program history that saw the Gamecocks reach the No. 1 spot in both the Golfweek/Sagarin and Golfstat Relative Rankings for the first time ever. South Carolina finished 2014 ranked No. 2 in both rankings behind Washington, but a sixth place finish by the Huskies last weekend moved the Gamecocks back to the top spot in this week’s Golfstat Relative Rankings.

The Gamecocks started the season with a head-turning win at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, which boasted the toughest field of the regular season, before posting a runner-up finish at the Tar Heel Invitational. South Carolina returned to the top at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate before wrapping up the fall with a third-place result at the Landfall Tradition. In four fall starts, the Gamecocks posted two wins and did not fall out of the top three. Golfweek named South Carolina its team of the week twice during the first half of the season. The 54-hole scores from the Gamecocks four fall events all rank in top 10 in program history.

Dreher posted a 71.92 stroke average last fall to lead the Gamecocks into the spring and ranks third in career scoring average (min. 55 rounds) with an average of 74.37. Schmelzel is just behind her in fourth with a career stroke average of 74.38.

Nearly half (26 of 58) of the Gamecocks’ individual rounds in the fall season were at par or better. The total includes Hillow’s program record 65 at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championships (Oct. 19, 2014) and three rounds of 68 – two from Dreher at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate and one from Dambaugh at the Tar Heel Invitational.

Overall, South Carolina golfers posted 10 top-15 individual finishes last fall. Dreher kicked off the season with her first collegiate individual win at the ANNIKA. With a consistent start to the season, Hillow finished in the top-15 in her first two events before surging to the runner-up spot with a program-record 65 in the final round of the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate.

South Carolina is set to host the fourth annual Darius Rucker Intercollegiate at Long Cove Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C., March 6-8.