Dowling has Gators rolling in right direction

Head coach Jan Dowling (right) talks to Jessica Yadloczky during the final round of the SunTrust Gator Women's Invite.

Head coach Jan Dowling (right) talks to Jessica Yadloczky during the final round of the SunTrust Gator Women's Invite.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Not two years into the head coaching gig at Florida, Jan Dowling already can put a mark in the “win at home” column.

The Gators notched an 18-shot victory over Florida State on March 7 at home as teams all around them struggled with small greens and hidden breaks. It’s the Gators' second victory in Dowling’s short tenure.

“One of our goals was to win this tournament, it’s a confidence booster and it’s great to be playing on your home course, but there’s some added pressure and they handled it really well,” Dowling said. “I’m proud of them for that.”

The Florida gig is Dowling’s first head coaching job after one season as an assistant at Duke and two years as an assistant at Kent State, her alma mater. Eyebrows may have been raised at the young hire, but a commanding win and a No. 28 ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings point to success in Gainesville.

The players agree. Isabelle Lendl, one half of the one-two Lendl punch that led Florida to its last blow-out victory a year ago at the Central District Invite (Marika is on the sidelines likely for the rest of the season after shoulder reconstruction surgery), appreciates Dowling’s leadership and flexibility.

“It’s just a learning curve for everybody and for me too,” said Lendl, who spent much of the summer fighting through a swing change but finished T-7 in Gainesville. “She’s very flexible with me.”

When it comes to Florida’s list of things to accomplish, the natural progression would include a trip to the NCAA Championship. Florida has failed to advance out of the East Regional each of the past two years, including when the tournament was staged in Gainesville in 2009. Dowling hopes the Gator win will motivate her players for more good things, but she’s not looking to tinker with the strategy that is serving Florida well.

“One of our focuses this spring has just been on short game – it's purely short game stuff when we’re working together as a team and it paid off today,” Dowling said after the final round March 7. “We’re going to continue to work on it and this is going to motivate them to work hard.”

• • •

Going Coastal: Former SMU head women’s golf coach Todd Selders has been named an assistant men’s coach at Coastal Carolina. Selders, who resigned from SMU in January after 10 years with the program, had twice been named Coach of the Year (Western Athletic Conference, 2004; Conference USA, 2006).

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Selders said. “I will do everything I can to help Allen (Terrell, head coach) and the team. I'm very grateful to be at CCU; everyone has been very helpful. It feels good to be a Chanticleer!”

Coastal Carolina is No. 58 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Terrell said the Chanticleers are fortunate to add Selders’ experience to the team.

“(Todd) brings over 20 years of coaching experience to our program,” he said. “He has a strong passion for helping cultivate champions in academics and athletics. I am excited to see what we can accomplish together in the upcoming years.”

• • •

Part of a tradition: Brooke Beeler grew up watching the pros visit her home state each summer during the LPGA State Farm Classic. The TCU junior gained a spot in the field for this year’s tournament thanks to a sponsor exemption.

Beeler is from Butler, Ill., a town 40 miles outside Springfield, where the tournament is staged at Panther Creek Country Club. Beeler said it’s been a dream of hers to play in the event since she was eight.

“I grew up watching my heroes play in Springfield and now I have the opportunity to join the field and serve as a local icon for other young girls as they reach for their dreams,” she said.

Beeler recently set a TCU-record (7-under 65) at the Central District Invitational, going on to earn finish runner-up at the event. She is No. 60 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

• • •

A look ahead...

What: LSU Golf Classic

When: March 11-13

Where: University Club, Baton Rouge, La.

Why it’s important: Consider this something of an ACC-SEC showdown, and also the place to be this weekend for any team east of the Mississippi. Eight of Golfweek’s top 15 teams are in the field, led by top-ranked Alabama and No. 4 LSU. Expect the home team to be tough and focused at the University Club, especially with the Crimson Tide in the field, a team LSU has beaten only once in head-to-head competition. As for the ACC’s best prospects, keep an eye on Duke (No. 6) and Virginia (No. 9).

• • •

photo

Catherine Dolan

Five questions with Missouri State junior Catherine Dolan, who won the Rio Verde Invitational on March 6.

1.) You opened the tournament eagle-birdie. What are you thinking stepping up to the third tee, three deep?

I was very relieved because honestly, I was really worried about how I was going to play because I hadn’t been hitting the ball as well as I would like. So when I eagled and birdied I was like, OK I can breathe now. I had a little room for error. I tried to go lower, obviously.

2.) You ended up leaving the next four players on the leaderboard in the dust, four shots back. Did you know what the leaderboard looked like Sunday?

I didn’t expect to finish that far ahead of everyone. I didn’t think that the day was that hard – that 72 was going to be the next lowest score of the day. I was pretty surprised.

3.) This is your first college victory. How does it compare to the junior and amateur success you’ve had?

Probably way better. When I won state it was a really big thing, but this is – there’s way more competitors in the field and it’s more of an accomplishment. There’s schools from everywhere.

4.) How does the Rio Verde rank among best tournaments/venues you’ve played?

It’s probably my favorite tournament. I look forward to it every year because we stay with host families and they are seriously the nicest people. The whole tournament, the whole atmosphere, all the people from Rio Verde come out and watch us. It’s just such a good feeling having people you don’t even know cheering for you. It’s my favorite tournament for sure.

5.) With you first win in the bag, what else do you still want to accomplish this spring, or in the rest of your college career?

I definitely want to shoot more under par rounds consistently, move up in the rankings. For sure finish in the top 5 in every tournament.

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