Editor’s note: Over the next month, Golfweek.com will be previewing every conference that has an automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals. For all of the women’s conference capsules, click here.
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The East Tennessee State Buccaneers haven’t been at the top of the Atlantic Sun conference since 2008, but if this fall was any indication, 2013 might be their season.
In the five tournaments, the Bucs won the UNCG Starmount Forest tournament, which included setting three program records, and also capped the fall season with a runner-up finish at the Palmetto Intercollegiate.
“The UNCG event was incredible,” said head coach Stefanie Shelton. “It was one of those tournaments were everything we worked on, how to play the course and how to handle ourselves on the course, clicked.”
The Bucs record-setting performance featured the best second-round score (283), best two-round scores (570) and the best three-round score (852). They came away with the victory by a 24-shot margin over Maryland while besting three top-60 teams (No. 26 Campbell, No. 54 Maryland and No. 55 East Carolina according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings).
And it’s not just one player doing all the work. From freshman Vivienne Chin to sophomore Gabriella Wahl to three juniors (Larissa Steinfelt, Sian Evans and Lourdes Lopez) to the lone senior Chloe Garner, everyone has contributed to the team’s success. At the UNCG tournament, four players (Evans, Garner, Wahl and Lopez) finished in the top six to bring their first team title back to East Tennessee since 2009. Evans had her first runner-up finish as a Buccaneer at the UNCG tournament.
“After last year’s conference championship, this year we have been motivated and just ready to win,” said Shelton.
Last year they came so close to coming back and winning the title on the final day at Venetian Bay Golf Club hosted by Stetson that they cried not because they lost the conference championship, but because they played so well in the final round. Since the Bucs won their last championship, they haven’t finished worse than T-3.
This year the conference voted to play the championship at a neutral course at Jekyll Island in Georgia, which makes Shelton extremely excited because no one has an advantage on the course and everyone will be seeing it for the first time.
East Tennessee State’s goal is to compete at the conference championship, but to also win and make it to the NCAAs.
“With that win in the fall, we learned how to win, and now we just have to do it at championships,” said Shelton. “We have the momentum (from the fall) and potential to do it this year. It would mean a tremendous amount to us.”
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Where it stands now
Top of the class: East Tennessee State
Best player of the fall: Kaew Preamchuen, Kennesaw State
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2008: East Tennessee State
2012: Kennesaw State
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