South Carolina has taken a place among the elite in women’s golf in 10 seasons under coach Kalen Anderson, and the Gamecocks begin their spring schedule Friday with lofty ambitions.
“We have a lot of potential if we perform like we know we can,” Anderson said. “We’re still young, but we have more quality depth than we’ve ever had and we’re looking forward to see what we can do.”
The target, of course, is success at the highest level, and the Gamecocks look to build on last season’s seventh-place finish in the NCAA Championship. The 2015-16 team won its fourth regional title in seven years and posted the program’s lowest 72-hole stroke-play score in the national tournament.
All-American Katelyn Dambaugh, No. 8 in the world among women amateurs and No. 4 among college players, provides a pillar of stability at the top of the lineup, and, Anderson said, “I can’t say enough about her performance and leadership.”
Indeed, the senior from Goose Creek has re-written the school record book and finished the fall at 22-under par for 12 rounds, placing individually second, fifth, tie for fifth and tie for sixth in four tournaments.
“I know she wants her last semester to be her best,” Anderson said. “But we want others to step up and do their part and take some of the pressure off her. The good thing is, we have the players to do that.”
Junior Ainhoa Olarra and sophomore Marion Veysseyre joined Dambaugh in the lineup in all four fall tournaments. Freshmen Anita Uwadia and Ana Pelaez, sophomore Isidora Nilsson and senior Jia Xin Yang alternated in the other spots.
“The competition in qualifying is strong, and I’m really pleased with the improvement the freshmen have shown over the break,” Anderson said. “Katelyn and Ainhoa have been steady, but we do need more consistency behind them.”
She expects that. The trademark of her teams is significant advancement in the spring, a trait emphasized by history. USC is one of five squads to reach the NCAA Championship the past seven years and has made the national tournament eight times in Anderson’s nine seasons.
The Gamecocks finished sixth, tied for seventh, tied for fifth and first in the fall tournaments, and begin the spring ranked 13th in the Golfstat national poll. In addition to Dambaugh, Olarra is 56th and Pelaez 61st in individual rankings.
USC opens the season Friday in the Florida State Match-Up in Tallahassee, Fla. The Gamecocks host the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate at Hilton Head in March, then play in the Bryan National Collegiate and Liz Murphy Collegiate before the SEC Championship and national tournaments.
“Our goal is to improve every day and in every tournament,” Anderson said. “We absolutely have high expectations, and the potential is there if we perform like we know we can.”
The 16th annual Columbia Golf Ball, which benefits the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation, will be held April 6 at the State Fairgrounds. For tickets or sponsorship information, call the SCGA at 803-732- 9311. … Volunteers are being sought for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, set for May 27-31 at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach. Request a form or direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. …Golf journalist and humorist Mike Dojc will speak on “Let’s Talk Golf” at a fundraising breakfast to benefit The Friendship, an organization that supports older adults in the Columbia area who choose to live in their homes. The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 25 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 2827 Wheat Street. Go online to www.thefriendship.org for information or to secure tickets. … Five former champions, headed by 2018 Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, have committed to play in the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island in April. Other former winner who will compete include Aaron Baddeley, Stewart Cink, Carl Pettersson and Graeme McDowell. For tickets, call 843-671- 2448 or go online to www.rbcheritage.com. … Clemson’s women open their spring season today in the UCF tourney in Orlando, Fla. USC’s men begin in the All-American Intercollegiate in Humble, Texas, on Feb. 17, and Clemson’s men start Feb. 19 in the Westin Rio Mar Invitational in Puerto Rico.