March 21, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina women’s golf, in partnership with Darius Rucker and Long Cove Club, hosted the sixth annual Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in Hilton Head Island earlier this month. Kroger and Reynolds sponsored the 54-hole event, which has emerged as the top spectacle in collegiate golf.
The tournament again featured a strong field, as 10 of the 17 teams in action entered the week ranked in the top 25 by Golfstat. Eleven squads that had already won an event this season competed at the three-day tournament, and 15 golfers that were listed in the top 50 by Golfstat highlighted the 90-player field.
“We host one of the best tournaments in the country, if not the best tournament,” South Carolina senior golfer Katelyn Dambaugh said. “Long Cove Club is amazing, and it’s always in perfect shape. We just put on such a prestige event.”
Long Cove Club, Golfweek’s 14th-ranked residential golf course of 2017, remained a challenge for the competitors. All 17 teams finished above par, including fifth-ranked Alabama, which won the tournament for the second-straight year with a three-round total of 859 (+7). Crimson Tide sophomore Cheyenne Knight captured the individual medalist honors after carding a 54-hole mark of 205 (-8), while No. 18 Duke (861, +9) and No. 10 Arizona State (865, +13) rounded out the top three on the team leaderboard.
The host Gamecocks boasted their best showing at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, grabbing fourth-place honors with a three-day score of 876 (+24). Freshman Ana Pelaez and junior Ainhoa Olarra both placed in a tie for ninth at 5-over 218 to pace Carolina, which has posted top-five finishes at the tournament in three of the last four years.
Approximately 1,800 spectators and over 100 Long Cove volunteers were on hand for the event, which features the unique combination of golf and music. The idea to pair the two came from South Carolina women’s golf associate head coach Puggy Blackmon. He approached country music star and South Carolina alumnus Darius Rucker about the tournament, and the musician immediately showed interest. Rucker has put on a private concert for the participating teams and Long Cove members the night before the tournament in each of the last six years.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the Carolina women’s golf team, and this just seemed like a great thing,” Rucker said. “Long Cove and the volunteers stepped up, and it turned into a cool event. It’s nice to know that the people running it are doing an amazing job.”
This year’s tournament was dedicated to Judie Oppenheimer, who played a major role in founding the event.
“Unfortunately, I lost my wife Judie just a year ago, and she had a great deal to do with the fundraising and developing the financial side of this event,” the first tournament chairman of the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, Staunton “Oppie” Oppenheimer said. “This year, the teams all wore pink ribbons in the last round to dedicate it to her memory, and it was a great honor. I know that she would just love know that this had happened.”
South Carolina and the best of women’s collegiate golf will head back to Hilton Head Island next year when the tournament returns to Long Cove Club.
“To be associated with such a first-class event is a great reflection on us,” South Carolina women’s golf coach Kalen Anderson said. “Darius and Long Cove Club do such a wonderful job.”
The No. 10 Gamecocks, who have finished in the top five in each of their last four tournaments, resume their spring slate later this month at the Bryan National Collegiate. The three-day tournament gets underway on Fri., March 31 in Greensboro, N.C.