June 17, 2016
By Kyle Heck (Spurs and Feathers)
While the South Carolina women’s golf team had a successful year overall, head coach Kalen Anderson was particularly proud of how her team stepped up in the postseason once again.
For the second-straight season, and fourth time out of the last seven, the Gamecocks were champions of an NCAA Regional. They carried that momentum into the NCAA Championship, where they advanced all the way to the match play portion of the event. South Carolina dropped a close match against Stanford, but finished in seventh place with a total score of 1162 (+10), which was the lowest 72-hole mark ever at the championship.
This year marked the seventh-straight year that the Gamecocks participated in the NCAA Championship.
“I thought they just did a phenomenal job in the postseason,” Anderson said. “We really came together and peaked at the right time, which was important. I was really proud of the performance.”
One of the main reasons the Gamecocks were able to end the year on a strong note was the play of the underclassmen on the team. Marion Veysseyre and Isidora Nilsson, both freshmen, and Ainhoa Olarra, a sophomore, were among those who participated at the NCAA Championship, and they performed very well.
“It’s huge for the future getting those two freshmen in there and a sophomore,” Anderson said. “It gives them a taste of what’s to come, and hopefully motivates them for the future. Experience is everything. It’s not about age, but experience, and that’s great. I’m glad that we got some young kids that got that under their belt.”
A strong point for the team all season long was the play of the top of the lineup. Junior Katelyn Dambaugh and senior Sarah Schmelzel had outstanding and consistent years for the Gamecocks. Schmelzel capped her career with a 73.21 stroke average this season, which was the fifth-lowest in school history.
“She’s such a hard worker and I’m so proud of her,” Anderson said. “She’s really bought into our program and loves being a Gamecock.”
Dambaugh had perhaps the best season in school history. Her stroke average was 71.62, which broke the school-record for lowest average, and she went on to be named a first-team All-American and was a runner up for the prestigious ANNIKA Award, which is given to the best golfer in the nation.
“Katelyn has always been a good, talented player (but) her consistency changed,” Anderson said. “She became a consistent player and that’s why she’s one of the best players in the country now.”
While the Gamecocks will lose the services of Schmelzel, there will be a talented group returning next year, headlined by Dambaugh. The performances by Veysseyre, Nilsson and Olarra in the postseason should give them plenty of confidence as they continue to grow, and Anderson said there is another talented, international recruiting class coming in for next season.
“I think we’re still going to be extremely young, which is a good thing,” Anderson said. “We get Katelyn and Ainhoa back, and Ainhoa was such a boost for us this spring. For her to come in and do what she did, that was a huge difference maker. So we have those two coming back and we have a couple freshmen with that kind of experience. We have some young talent coming that we’re excited about. It’ll take a little bit of time to develop, but by the spring, I think we’re going to be in great shape.”