In preparation for the upcoming college season, Golfweek is breaking down the rosters of each of its preseason top 30 teams.
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No. 22 South Carolina
2011-12 Golfweek rank: 18
Go-to girl: Justine Dreher
Season outlook: South Carolina head coach Kalen Harris has a series of descriptors for her five incoming freshmen: eager, hard-working, under-the-radar. It could bode well for the Gamecocks, especially in light of graduating Katie Burnett, who set a program record with her 74.18 career scoring average. Amanda Strang also didn’t return for her senior season, opting instead to pursue a professional career back home in Sweden.
At the top of Harris’ list of freshmen, at least in terms of experience, is Sarah Schmelzel. The Phoenix native has extensive experience at the junior and amateur levels.
“I think she’s going to develop into a really strong player and do great things,” Harris said.
Karoline Woie of Norway, Mary Fran Hillow of Orlando, Fla., and South Carolina natives Chelsey Couch and Kaitlin Matheson are the other newcomers.
The Gamecocks return three starters from the team that won the NCAA East Regional and finished top 5 at nationals: senior Meredith Swanson, junior Suzie Lee and sophomore Justine Dreher, who posted top 20s at the SEC Championship (T-12) and regionals (T-19) last season. Junior Samantha Swinehart got considerable experience as a freshman before battling swing problems last year, but she might be returning to form after advancing to match play at this month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Harris hopes her team retains momentum from last year’s postseason run. While Alabama, USC, LSU and Virginia were making noise atop the leaderboard during the final round of the NCAA Championship, the Gamecocks quietly cruised into the No. 5 position. They didn’t get much credit for that performance, but the experience should carry over for the three returnees.
“I think it makes them hungry,” Harris said.