East: Burnett, Dreher lead South Carolina charge
Top team: South Carolina (582)
Top individual: Katerina Ruzickova (143)
In position: 2. Alabama (589) 3. Florida (591) 4. Texas A&M (592) 5. Duke (595) 6. Texas (596) 7. Arizona (296) 8. Washington (303)
Chasing: 9. Arizona State (601) T-10. Tulane (603) T-10. Campbell (603)
Until the last putt drops: South Carolina was supposed to be teetering on the edge this week, fighting for position. Instead, the No. 8 seed is leading the pack for the second straight day at the NCAA East Regional.
The Gamecocks, led by senior Katie Burnett, are seven shots clear of Alabama heading into the last round at 6-over 582.
Surely head coach Kalen Harris will sleep well tonight.
“No, you never do,” Harris said. “Not until the last putt drops and the last scorecard is signed.”
Harris had an early scare when Suzie Lee carded an 11 on her third hole at Penn State’s Blue Course, the par-5 12th. Luckily for the Gamecocks, they threw out her 83.
Burnett posted a 71 with six birdies on her card and is tied for second with teammate Justine Dreher, three shots behind Texas A&M’s Katerina Ruzickova. Burnett’s last victory came at the 2010 East Regional. She has three top-6 finishes this spring.
“Let me just say she’s due,” said Harris, who noted that her team plays an awfully strong SEC schedule.
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This isn’t goodbye: Wake Forest senior Cheyenne Woods tried to tell the three new faces on this year’s squad that they’ve been through this before and triumphed. The Deacons were tied for 14th after Round 1 of last year’s Central Regional and came back to nab the eighth spot.
The battle this year, however, is more uphill. Last year they started the final round six shots out of eighth place; this year they’re nine back.
“I don’t want tomorrow to be my last round,” said Woods, who plans to turn professional immediately. She knows what it’s like to finish on the outside: The Deacons tied for ninth her sophomore year.
Ball-striking has kept Woods out of the winner’s circle in her final year at Wake. Her scoring average has hovered around the 73.5 mark the last three seasons, but previous years yielded better finishes.
Woods will likely need a season-low performance on Saturday to advance as an individual. She’s tied for 24th after rounds of 75-73.
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Short shots: Arizona State moved up from a tie for 13th to ninth place. The Sun Devils have never finished worse than a tie for sixth since the regional format was introduced in 1993. … Duke again played with only four players and finds itself in fifth place. Alejandra Cangrejo is out with an elbow injury. Three Blue Devils stepped up shoot an even-par 72, including Courtney Ellenbogen. This round tied Ellenbogen’s low mark for the season.
“Everyone was really calm,” said Ellenbogen of the news they’d be playing with four.
And clearly focused.