If Kalen Harris’ trip to the Tulsa Country Club this week produces results like the last one, celebrations will be the order of the day.
Playing for Duke in 1999, she helped the Blue Devils capture the NCAA women’s national championship.
Fifteen years later, she coaches the South Carolina women’s team and her Gamecocks own prominent spots in all the national polls headed into national tournament Tuesday-Friday in Tulsa, Okla.
“My last trip there gives me good vibes,” Harris said before the Gamecocks headed to Oklahoma on Saturday. “All season we have responded how we needed to, and we want to keep doing the same things.”
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The Gamecocks head into the national event following a second-place finishes in the SEC tournament and the East Regional. The Gamecocks have won twice, finished second four times and have placed in the top five in their past nine events.
“Balance is our key,” Harris said. “We don’t have a so-called ‘weak’ player and we don’t have to hope our ‘weak’ player has a good day. All five can go low. Our ‘bad’ days have been relatively good and our ‘good’ days have been really good.”
Justine Dreher, Samantha Swinehart, Katelyn Dambaugh and Sarah Schemlzel have scoring averages between 73 and 74 strokes per round, and Suzie Lee is right behind at 75. Dreher has been the team’s leading scorer in six of the 10 events.
The Gamecocks stood 11th after the first round in the East Regional. “That’s not where you want to be when eight are going (to the nationals),” Harris said. But she called for more aggressive play the final two rounds and USC responded, playing those 36 holes a cumulative 13-under par.
“We played the second round five-under in very windy conditions,” she said. “That was very impressive.”
The Gamecocks completed the comeback with an 8-under final round.
USC will be paired with the second-place team in the other two regionals, Washington and Alabama. Southern California, No. 1 in all the polls, will be the favorite.
USC is playing in the national tourney for the fifth straight year and is playing its best at playoff time. The 2012 team finished fifth in the NCAAs.
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Andrew Orischak (Hilton Head), Ryan Nelson (Charleston), Christian Brand (Charleston, W.Va.), Tee Opperman (Pawleys Island) and Will Miles (Hilton Head) advanced to U.S. Open Sectional competition in local qualifying at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island. At local qualifying at Pinewild CC in Pinehurst, McCuen Elmore (Cheraw/Clemson) and Kamito Hirai (Summerville/Winthrop) moved on to the sectionals. ...
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