Opening the season with a seventh-place tournament finish seldom fans the flames of excitement, but South Carolina’s women’s golf team provides the exception to the rule.
“Consider the circumstances,” coach Kalen Anderson said, and she reeled off mitigating factors in her squad’s finish — competing against a star-studded field, two freshmen in her lineup in their first college event and, most significantly, the absence of an All-American who nursed a shoulder injury.
“This is the most talented group I’ve had in my 13 years at Carolina,” she said, “and we just need to be patient and watch the team come together.”
Indeed, the Annika Intercollegiate showcases the nation’s top teams and 10 of the 12 squads owned spots in the preseason poll. “Finishing in the middle of the pack against teams of that caliber without an All-American senior isn’t bad,” Anderson said. “Really, it’s a positive.”
Lois Kaye Go, the Gamecocks’ veteran leader, has been idle since June with shoulder discomfort. Anderson hopes she will be in the lineup for the Windy City Invitational that starts Monday near Chicago; if not, she will make her first senior-year start in the Tar Heel Invitational in mid-October.
Even without Go, Carolina had three players to post top-20 finishes in the Annika. Sophomore Emily Price, the SEC freshman of the year in 2018-19 and freshman Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, ranked No. 10 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, tied for 15th, and senior Ana Pelaez shared 19th.
“A lot of positives, a lot of things to build on,” said Anderson, whose teams annually earn lofty national ranking. “Our freshman class (Roussin-Bouchard, Mathilde Claisse and Smith Knaffle) is the best we’ve had at Carolina, and they just need time to adjust to college and college golf.
“(Roussin-Bouchard and Claisse) are from France and like all international players, they need to adjust to the food, the language, and the whole college routine. They’ll be comfortable by the spring.”
Of course, peaking in the spring at national tournament time is the mission in college golf, and the track record forged by Anderson’s team is impressive. This year is no different, and, she said, “We’re not lowing our standards or expectations.”
Seniors Go, Pelaez and Anita Uwadia coupled with sophomore Price and the three freshmen provide a nice balance and gives the coach with multiple lineup options.
“The freshmen are freshmen in name only,” Anderson said. “Pauline won three quality international tournaments this year (prior to USC) and is 10th in the world amateur rankings. Mathilde is a world-class player. They have great credentials and great potential. Smith (Murrells Inlet) established herself as one of the dominant female golfers in our state.”
The seniors bring a wealth of experience and quality; Go is No. 1 in career scoring at USC and Pelaez “is playing the best golf of her life,” Anderson said. Uwadia is a two-year starter, and Price set the school record for scoring by a freshman.
“Very, very talented,” Anderson said in appraising the team. “They’re working to get better every day, every week. All we have to do is to stay patient and watch them develop.”
Chip shots. Senior Caleb Proveaux posted a 6-under-par 210 to earn second individually and lead USC’s men to a fourth-place finish in the Graeme McDowell Invitational in Birmingham, Alabama. . . . Clemson’s women opened their 2019-20 season by sharing second place in the Mason Rudolph Championship in Franklin, Tennessee. Sophomore Ivy Shepard tied for 10th to lead the Tigers. . . . Rich Weston (Pawleys Island) and Mike Daniels (Murrells Inlet) joined forces to win the SCGA’s Senior Better Ball title at Santee Cooper CC. . . . Doug Ramey (Greer) shot a 2-under-par 70 to edge Dan Sullivan (Columbia) by one stroke in the SCGA’s 40-Plus series at Orangeburg CC. . . . The “Hundred Hole Hike,” which consists of four members of the South Carolina Golf Association staff playing 100 holes in a single day to raise funds for the Youth on Course program, is set for Monday at the Plantation Course at Edisto Beach. To donate, go online to the SCGA website www.scgolf.org.