Auburn and Georgia State may have thought its tickets were prematurely punched to Caves Valley for last year’s NCAA Women’s Championship.
Auburn was a top-10 team all year but struggled at the East Regional. The Tigers failed to qualify for the national championship after finishing 10th in Gainesville, Fla., three shots behind Georgia for the eighth and final ticket to Maryland.
This year, Auburn coach Kim Evans is looking at the postseason as a fresh start.
“We have a great team, and my key word for them is opportunity,” Evans said. “We are a balanced team, and these girls are stepping up every day to work hard and be the best.”
There is no doubt Auburn has one of the best 1-2 punches in college golf with Cydney Clanton and Candace Schepperle. But Evans knows she needs more than that to compete.
“This is a total team effort,” Evans said. “When you go to a regional, you need five girls and four good rounds.”
The fifth-ranked Tigers will have a chance to redeem themselves from last year’s meltdown when they play May 6-8 in the East Regional at Ironwood Country Club in Greenville, N.C.
Georgia State also will have a shot at redemption in Greenville. A year ago, Georgia State was No. 29 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking and had won six tournament titles, including the CAA Championship. The Panthers were in the midst of their best season in school history, and the program’s first trip to nationals seemed to be in reach. But they stumbled, as well.
Georgia State finished ninth at the Central Regional, four shots behind Chattanooga, which earned the regional’s final bid to the national championship.
“Our goal all of last year was a trip to the national championship,” coach Cathy Mant said. “When we saw we were ninth and not eighth on that leaderboard last year (at the Central Regional), it was tough to swallow.”
Things will not be easy for the Panthers this year. The East Regional includes Duke, Auburn, Wake Forest, Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida. To make matters worse, the Panthers are a little bit beat up.
Mant said freshman Ellie Robinson has a sore back and a small cyst on her wrist, and has not hit balls for a few days. Junior Sandra Maier has tendinitis in her left elbow, and CAA medalist sophomore Charlotte Lorentzen has tendinitis in her left knee.
Despite the injuries, Mant thinks her team can crack that top 8 in Greenville.
“The biggest thing to tell the girls is that it’s not over until the last putt drops on the 18th green,” Mant said. “The team just has to keep giving it their all on every shot. They have to claw and fight.”
Georgia State consistently has gotten better under Mant. The Panthers have won three times this season, including a victory in Greenville at the Lady Pirate Intercollegiate.
The Panthers once again will have the chance to prove they are better than just a regional team. It would be a major accomplishment to crack the top 8 at the East Regional and advance to the national championship.
Two teams with two different stories, but both are looking for redemption and tickets to Wilmington, N.C., for a chance to compete at the NCAA Championship.