The best fall season in recent years, more experience and more quality depth give USC women’s coach Kalen Harris plenty of reasons to look forward to her team’s spring competition.
Besides, her teams have a history of peaking toward national tournament time.
“Overall, very solid,” she said in appraising the fall that saw the Gamecocks finish sixth, second, tie for fifth and fourth in their four fall events. They are ranked 14th in the national polls. “We played steady golf, contended in most of the tournaments and had four players with top-10 finishes individually.”
Of the latter, junior Justine Dreher posted a sixth and a seventh, senior Samantha Swinehart tied for second and 10th, sophomore Mary Fran Hillow garnered a seventh, and freshman Katelyn Dambaugh had a tie for fourth and a tie for eighth.
“We have more capable players, more quality depth,” she said. “We don’t have to depend on one player. We played the same six all fall and we have a couple of more we can rotate in.” Senior Suzie Lee and sophomore Sarah Schmelzel rounded out the fall squad.
Harris is pleased with Swinehart’s play and Hillow’s improvement, and adding Dambaugh is a plus.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m really happy with Samantha’s start to her senior year, and Mary Fran has made a huge jump; her game is really improved a great deal,” Harris said. “Katelyn is such a talented player and she’s already playing well. Once she really gets settled into college life and the college game, she’s going to win her share of tournaments.
“We have a lot of positives and we’re looking forward to the spring. We’re taking the time off from tournaments to focus on things like the short game and the mental side of golf. We’ll get through finals and the holidays, then we’ll be raring to go.”
The Gamecocks won their regional tourney in 2010 and 2012 and finished fourth a year ago. In the nationals, USC placed 20th last year after finishing fifth in 2012.
“We’ve been in the thick of things in tournaments and we’re looking forward to the future,” said Harris, whose team begins spring tournaments in February. “We want to have them prepared and let them go play.”
Looking ahead, Harris’ recruiting class includes two of Europe’s top amateurs who are ranked among the top 100 amateurs in the world: Nanna Madsen of Denmark (9th in Europe, 29th in the world) and Ainhoa Olarra of Spain (25th in Europe and 95th in the world).
At Camden Country Club, the Columbia CC team of Bernie Shealy, Walter Odiorne and Gary Garahan won the SCGA’s Lathrop Cup, which features club players 55 and older. The Aiken-based Palmetto GC team of pro Brooks Blackburn and amateurs Michael Carlisle, Jimmy Hamilton and Jim Wise won the pro-am. ...
JD Hoft and Jennifer Adams edged Todd White and Lee Anne Brown in a playoff to win the SCGA/WSCGA Mixed-Team title in Bluffton. Bob Rickman and Karen Ferree won the senior title. ...
Golfweek’s rankings of the nation’s top 100 resort-area courses include five from South Carolina: 8, Ocean Course, Kiawah Island; 13, Harbour Town GL, Hilton Head Island; 25, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, Pawleys Island; 30, May River at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton; and 33, Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Myrtle Beach. ...
Kelli Murphy (Elgin) and Keenan Huskey (Greenville) captured in individual girls’ and boys’ titles in the SCJGA’s Players Championship at Hartsville CC. Other age-group winners: Trent Phillips (Inman, boys’ 13-14); Daniel Azallion (Hilton Head, boys’ 12-and-under); Jensen Castle (West Columbia, girls’ 13-and-under). Carolinas PGA Section award winners: player of the year, Kelly Mitchum, Pinehurst; senior player of the year, Rick Lewallen, Kannapolis, N.C.; senior amateur of the year, Ernie Newton, High Point, N.C.; super senior amateur of the year, Larry Boswell, Jamestown, N.C. (former Columbia resident).