Vanderbilt knocks off opponents in top 10, captures SEC crown
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Commodores finished off the 2014 SEC Championship in grand style Sunday afternoon at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, winning the team championship by 11 strokes over second-place South Carolina and freshman Simin Feng claiming medalist honors with an exclamation point after shooting a tournament-low 66 on Sunday. Feng finished eight strokes ahead of LSU's Lindsay Gahm and Gaby Lopez of Arkansas.
The 2014 title is Vanderbilt's second SEC crown in the program's history, with the other coming in 2004. The Commodores also won medalist honors that season, when May Wood was the tournament's top individual.
The Commodores came through in what may have been the toughest field of the season after posting a three-round total of 879 (298-287-294). The SEC, one of the nation's toughest conferences for women's golf, had seven teams ranked in the top 25 entering the tournament and 10 in the top 36. Vanderbilt knocked off No. 6 South Carolina by 11 strokes, No. 5 Arkansas by 13, and No. 7 Alabama by 17.
"It feels pretty good," Vanderbilt head coach Greg Allen said. "I don't know if it will sink in until I get home with my family, but I'm excited for my team. The young ladies played so great today. Yesterday was an impressive round, shooting one-under in wet and tough conditions, and they hung in there today. We started with a five or six shot lead to begin the day, and before you know it, we're up 10 and we held on. We played some phenomenal golf."
SEC champion Feng cruised through her round on Sunday, notching six birdies and no bogeys, and her final score of 209 (73-70-66) tied for the second lowest individual total in the history of the tournament and the lowest since Marina Alex's 208 in 2010. Feng's 66 was the lowest of the tournament and the lowest on Sunday by five strokes.
"Definitely coming into this tournament I had a lot of confidence," Feng said. "Last tournament I had a lot of confidence, but the course was very hard to adjust to. This tournament, I came down and had the right mindset and was able to figure out the course better and play smart, instead of aggressive. I was trying to keep myself as calm as possible and play as smart as possible on the golf course. I was trying not to be too aggressive, and when there's a chance, I'll take the chance. It was the best round I've played this year."
"Simin was pretty impressive," Allen said. "She was in control today and really, for the whole week. She had a great game plan coming in and it's good to see her play well. She deserves it, works really hard at home, and it was fun to watch. Her round today is something we'll remember for a long time in our program."
The Commodores also had two other players finish in the top 20 individually. Sophomore Jennifer Hahn finished in ninth after posting a three-round score of 221 (71-72-78) and junior Irina Gabasa, who finished in a tie for 19th with a final total of 226 (74-767-76).
Next up for the Commodores is NCAA regional championship play on May 8-10 at a site still to be determined. Vanderbilt will find out their destination to one of three NCAA Regional locations on April 28.