May 6, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 2 South Carolina is set to make its 17th-straight NCAA Regional appearance after earning the No. 1 seed in the East Regional in Raleigh, N.C. After 54 holes at NC State’s Lonnie Pool Golf Course, the top six teams will advance to the NCAA Championships in Bradenton, Fla. The Gamecocks are one of just seven teams in the nation with an active streak of five or more NCAA Championship berths and will look to extend the run to six straight this week.
Dates: Thurs., May 7 – Sat., May 9
Location: Raleigh, N.C.
Course: Lonnie Pool Golf Course â€¢ Par 72 â€¢ 6,381 yards
Format: 54-hole stroke play
The Lineup: Justine Dreher, Katelyn Dambaugh, Sarah Schmelzel, Jia Xin Yang, Mary Fran Hillow
The Field: 18 teams (listed by seed) – 1. South Carolina; 2. LSU; 3. Mississippi State; 4. Northwestern; 5. Florida; 6. Central Florida; 7. Furman; 8. Alabama; 9. Iowa State; 10. Ohio State; 11. North Carolina State; 12. Georgia Regents Univ.; 13. Coastal Carolina; 14. Campbell; 15. College of Charleston; 16. Seton Hall; 17. Wichita State; 18. Fairleigh Dickinson
Live Scoring: GolfStat
BREAKING DOWN THE FIELD
Of the 18 teams in the East Regional, six are currently ranked in Golfstat’s top 25. The total includes three SEC teams in the top 10 with No. 2 South Carolina, No. 7 LSU and No. 10 Mississippi State set to square off. No. 15 Northwestern, No. 18 Florida and No. 24 Central Florida round out the teams in the top 25 that will play in Raleigh. In all, 13 of the 18 teams are ranked in the Golfstat top 50. Eight teams (Central Florida, Furman, Ohio State, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, Seton Hall, Wichita State, Fairleigh Dickinson) earned automatic bids after winning their respective conference championships. The Gamecocks have faced 11 of the 18 teams that will play in Raleigh this weekend, compiling a 24-4 record.
This weekend’s competition also features three of the nation’s top 10 individuals in SEC Player of the Year No. 2 Madeline Sagstrom (LSU), No. 6 Dreher and No. 8 Ally McDonald (Miss. St.). With the three conference foes playing together in Thursday’s first round, the trio is likely to be in the same group.
The Gamecocks will employ the same five golfers that captured a runner-up finish at the SEC Championships. Senior Justine Dreher takes the top spot after carding five of her last six rounds at par or better. Her single-season scoring average of 72.28 is on pace to set the program record. Behind Dreher is sophomore Katelyn Dambaugh who enters the weekend fresh off back-to-back top-five finishes in her last two events. Junior Sarah Schmelzel, sophomore Jia Xin Yang and junior Mary Fran Hillow round out the top five. Four of Yang’s last six rounds have been at par or better.
When the SEC yearly awards, as voted on by the league’s coaches, were announced last week, the Gamecocks were well represented. Kalen Anderson garnered her first SEC Coach of the Year accolades after guiding South Carolina to its first No. 1 ranking. Dreher became the fourth Gamecock to earn multiple First-Team All-SEC nods, collecting her second after a stellar season. The senior sport and entertainment management was also named co-Scholar Athlete of the Year. Dambaugh landed a spot on the second team for the second-straight season.
With a new format of four regional sites this year, the Gamecocks are one of four No. 1 seeds. South Carolina is the only non-PAC 12 team to earn a top seed with No. 1 Southern California, No. 3 UCLA and No. 4 Arizona taking the other three slots.
NCAA REGIONAL HISTORY
The Gamecocks have a strong regional history under the guidance of Anderson. In seven regional appearances with Anderson at the helm, South Carolina has finished in the top five four times and captured a pair of titles in 2010 and 2012. Both regional titles have come when the Gamecocks were placed in the East Regional.
Last season, the Gamecocks took a second-place finish at the NCAA East Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., to advance to their fifth-straight NCAA Championship. Dreher led the Gamecocks, firing a final-round 6-under 66 and a T4 finish. Two other members of this year’s lineup in Dambaugh (T24) and Schmelzel (T29) also helped South Carolina finish at 10-uner (854), the second-lowest team 54-hole score in program history.
DOING IT THE HARD WAY
Playing another rigorous schedule, the sixth toughest in the nation according to Golfstat, the Gamecocks have produced a 49-13-2 record against the top 25. Only South Carolina (78.1 percent) and No. 4 Arizona (72.3 percent) own winning records of 70 percent or better when facing teams in the top 25.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
South Carolina has sustained the momentum from a historic 2013-14 season into 2014-15. In the fall, the Gamecocks reached the No.1 spot in both the Golfstat and Golfweek/Sagarin rankings for the first time in school history and have stayed in the top five all season. Owning the program’s best-ever team season scoring average by nearly a stroke at 290.76, South Carolina captured a pair of titles and are on a streak of 15-straight regular-season stroke play top-five finishes dating back to October of 2013.
Four of the program’s 10 lowest 54-hole tournament scores have been carded this season and a Gamecock has finished in the top five on the individual board in eight of nine events. Players on this season’s roster account for five of the eight rounds of 66 or lower in program history, including the new program record of 65, set by both Hillow (Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship) and Dambaugh (SEC Championships) this season. Dambaugh’s second-round 65 at the conference event also tied an SEC Championship record.
Dreher leads the Gamecocks with a season stroke average of 72.28, a score that is on pace to set the program’s single-season scoring average record (min. 18 rounds). Dambaugh isn’t far behind, with the sophomore carrying a scoring average of 73.30, which would rank fourth in program history. In the program’s career scoring average category (min. 55 rounds), a pair of current Gamecocks are currently 1-2, with Dambaugh’s 73.54 besting Dreher’s 74.16. Schmelzel is also in the top five, owning a 74.34 career stroke average.
LAST TIME OUT
To open postseason play, the Gamecocks weathered a wet, messy weekend at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Hoover, Ala., for the 2015 SEC Championships. South Carolina was tied for fifth after an opening round 299 (+11), but bolstered by Dambaugh’s program and SEC Championship-tying 65 (-7) on day two, climbed to second place. The Gamecocks shot a season-best 8-under 280 on Saturday and trailed leader Texas A&M by nine strokes entering the final round. Another strong day pulled South Carolina within two strokes on the back nine, but after a brief weather delay, the Aggies pulled away in the final holes. The Gamecocks took the runner-up spot at the conference event for the second-straight season.