May 8, 2010
Vanderbilt's women's golf team used a balanced performance from all five squad members to advance to the NCAA Championships, the Commodores' first trip to the national championship since 2007 and their fifth since the program began in 1985.
The Commodores finished the East Regional in fifth place on Saturday with a total of seven-over par, 871. The top eight teams in the regional advance to the national championship in Wilmington, N.C., May 18-21.
"It's a great feeling," said Vanderbilt head coach Greg Allen. "Everyone was making birdies out there early on the front nine. We had a great start, and it gave us a cushion as we came down the stretch. It was so much fun out there today. We put ourselves in a position to win.
"Sometimes you have to put yourself in position a few times to get over the hump," continued Allen. "It happened to Marina at the SEC Championships, and we hope we'll be ready if we get in this situation at the NCAA Championships."
VU's theme of perseverance and steadiness was apparent on Friday and Saturday, as the Commodores stormed back after a disappointing 12th place when play ended on Thursday. Vanderbilt's entire team was solid throughout the week - of their 15 competitive rounds, only one score was higher than a 75.
Vanderbilt's SEC Player of the Year, Marina Alex, led the team with a 216 (72-73-71), which placed her in a tie for ninth place, which is unbelievably, her worst finish of the 2009-10 season. However, the rest of the team picked up the sophomore from Wayne, N.J., with some great finishes of their own to push the Commodores into the national championship. Junior Megan Grehan finished a stroke back of Alex with a 217 (73-70-75) and a tie for 13th, and senior Brooke Goodwin finished a stroke behind Grehan with a 218 (73-70-75), which tied her for 19th.
This weekend marked the first multi-round tournament this season that the Commodores have had three golfers place in the top 20.
Rounding out the scores were freshman Anna Leigh Keith, who carded a third-round 73 in route to a total of 222 (75-74-73, T-40), and fellow freshman Lauren Stratton, who ended the tournament with a 225 (73-77-75, T-59).
"Everybody is pitching in," said Allen. "I've told them when we have three players in the top 15 or 20, we've got a chance to win."
South Carolina claimed the regional title with an even-par, 864, two strokes better than Tennessee and four strokes better than Auburn. The SEC was a force in Greenville, with four out of the top five teams coming from the Southeastern Conference.
The Gamecocks' Katie Burnett claimed medalist honors with a six-under par, 210. Carlie Yadloczky of Auburn finished a stroke back at 211.
Vanderbilt gets a week off to practice and then heads to Wilmington, N.C.'s Country Club of Landfall Tuesday, May 18, through Friday, May 21. UNC Wilmington will be serving as the host school.
"We are going to Wilmington with no pressure on us," said Allen. "We're so excited and I'm so proud of them."