2003 Friendly rivals South Carolina, FSU earn final East spots
Following the NCAA Division I Women’s East Regional, Florida State and South Carolina engaged in a friendly water balloon war. Both teams had reason to celebrate.
South Carolina had finished the tournament in seventh place, and Florida State captured the coveted eighth spot. With the top eight teams advancing to the national championship May 20-23 at Purdue’s Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind., the region rivals had accomplished their immediate goal.
Duke won its fourth consecutive tournament and also its fourth consecutive NCAA Regional title after posting a final-round 283 May 8-10 at Salem Glen Country Club. Prior to the regional, the Blue Devils had claimed three ACC titles at the Clemmons, N.C., course. The Blue Devils finished at 5-over 857, eight strokes ahead of Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Other teams advancing to the finals were Auburn (867), Arizona (874) and North Carolina (882).
Florida State trailed Duke by only two strokes after the first round, but a second-round 302 dropped the Seminoles to eighth. A closing 297 maintained that position and earned Florida State its first trip to the NCAA Championship since 1999.
“Coming in, I told the girls they were going to have to play their best golf. And really we didn’t do that,” said Florida State coach Debbie Dillman. “But they sucked it up and held it together with a little chewing gum and rubber bands, and boy it feels good.”
Dillman credited the team’s depth for its success this season. “We don’t have to rely on a superstar,” she said. “Anybody can be a superstar any day.”
FSU’s regional stalwart was Caroline Larsson, who shot a career-best 3-under 68 in the final round to lead the Seminoles to a 216 total.
“She brought it in for us today, no doubt about it,” Dillman said. “My hat’s off to her. I’ll carry her bag to the airport.”
South Carolina, however, relied on the performance of a seasoned veteran. Senior Kristy McPherson shot 68-71-70 to finish second at 4 under, four shots behind Furman’s Brandi Jackson, who earned individual honors with an 8-under 205 total. Jackson finished with a career-best, 5-under 66.
The Gamecocks, No. 15 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, posted an 884 total to earn their third consecutive NCAA Championship spot.
Throughout the tournament, Florida State and South Carolina took turns “decorating” each other’s vans. “I’ve been in this business 19 years and there always seems to be some teams that have a really good, friendly rivalry and just have so much fun turnin’ the screw a little bit on each other,” Dillman said. “We get to go irritate each other in Indiana now, so that’s cool.”
Auburn turned in the tournament’s low round, a school-record 6-under 278, to finish fourth. The Tigers were playing without senior All-American Danielle Downey, who was out with a wrist injury.
Freshman Maria Martinez led the team’s final-round charge with a career-best 66, while junior Diana Ramage shot 68.
Furman’s Jackson, the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up, ran into some early trouble but bounced back with some excellent play. Starting on the back nine, Jackson was 2 under through six holes before a double bogey on No. 16 momentarily derailed the senior from Belton, S.C.
“My goal was to not let it bother me,” Jackson said. “I knew there was a lot of holes that could be birdied and I just thought maybe I could make a couple birdies after that and go from there.”
Starting on 18, Jackson birdied four consecutive holes and recorded another on No. 7 to close at 5 under. Penn State’s Katie Futcher grabbed the last individual spot, shooting 75-68-68 to tie for third.