April 26, 2009

Courtesy of Auburn

BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. - The No. 6 Auburn women's golf team carded the low final round Sunday at the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship, turning a three-stroke deficit into an eight-stroke victory as the Tigers went on to claim the program's seventh SEC title.

Hosted by the University of South Carolina, the SEC Championship was a 54-hole stroke play event played at the University Club at Cobblestone Park in Blythewood, S.C. The par-71 course played at 6,204 yards for the tournament.

Auburn posted a 1-over-par 285, the third-lowest SEC Championship round in school history, in the final round to finish the three-day tournament with an 18-over-par 870, the second-lowest tournament total ever for Auburn.

The Tigers stormed out of the gate and were at 5-under-par at one point in the final round to take the lead. Auburn struggled some on the back nine, shooting 6-over-par to finish the day, but managed to hold on to its lead and the title.

"Today was a round that makes your hair gray," said Auburn head coach Kim Evans. "We started out so strong, they just went after it. Then we fell of a little bit, but we finished strong"

After taking a big lead early in the round, Auburn watched it shrink to four strokes with a couple holes left to play. Candace Schepperle gave the team a little cushion with a birdie on No. 17 and Cydney Clanton followed with a birdie on No. 18 to give the Tigers the eight-stroke win and the low round of the day.

"Finishing strong is everything. In golf, if you can outright win it on the last day, that is huge," said Evans. "To come down the last three holes and take care of your business, I am so proud of them."

Clanton, a native of Concord, N.C., shot the low round of the day for Auburn, carding a 1-under-par 70 to finish the tournament with in a tie for fourth with a 3-over-par 216. Birmingham native Schepperle finished two strokes behind her in a tie for 10th with a 2-over 73, posting a 5-over-par 218 for the tournament.

As proud as Evans was with her veterans, she was also excited about the play of freshmen Patricia Sanz and Haley Wilson. Both shot even-par in the stress-filled final round to help the Tigers to the title.

"Our freshman played so well today, shooting even-par on the biggest stage so far this season," said Evans. "They did not let anything phase them, they just showed up and went to work."

Sanz, a native of Madrid, Apain, finished second on the team for the tournament, carding a 4-over-par 217 to finish in a tie for sixth. Wilson (Fort Mitchell, Ala.), the first-round co-leader, tallied a 6-over-par 219 for the tournament, placing 12th overall to give Auburn four players in the top 12.

Rounding out the Auburn lineup was Mariana Macias, a senior from Madrid, Spain. She carded an 8-over-par 79 for the second day in a row to finish in a tie for 54th with a 27-over-par 240.

After leading the tournament after the first round, Evans said she had to draw on the excitement from that first day and the team's three regular-season wins and not let her team forget what that feels like.

"We just try to emphasize the same thing every day, one shot at a time, one hole at a time. All the little things you work on. One of the things I wanted to make sure they heard this morning was not feeling down about being down after the second day," said Evans. "There was no limit to what they could do today. We had a lot of confidence after the first round and it dropped some after the second round.

"We just really wanted to find momentum. I told them to get excited about winning instead of being sad that they dropped. And we just found some confidence today."

The SEC title is the seventh all-time for Auburn, placing the Tigers in third in total championships won behind Georgia (11) and Florida (8). Auburn also won the SEC Championship in 1989, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

Arkansas, the second-round leader, finished in a tie for second along with Alabama at 26-over-par 878. The Crimson Tide moved up from fifth after carding the second-lowest round of the day, 3-over-par 287. Tennessee finished the tournament in fourth with a 29-over-par 881 while LSU rounded out the top five in fifth with a 34-over 886.

Individually, Georgia freshman Marta Silva took home the title with a 3-under-par 210. She finished with a four-stroke victory as South Carolina's Benedicte Toumpsin finished second with a 1-over-par 214. Georgia's Mallor Hetzel finished third with a 2-over 215 while Clanton and Arkansas' Kristin Ingram completed the top five with 3-over-par 216s.

"There were some great, great teams out there playing, and we are just really excited about this win," said Evans. "We're going to enjoy this today, but we are going to prepare for NCAA Regionals. We've got a lot to work on."

With the SEC Championship complete, Auburn awaits the decision from the NCAA committee on regional selection. NCAA Regional Championships are slated for May 7-9. The three regional sites are the University of Florida Golf Club in Gainesville, Fla. (East), Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz. (West), and The Scarlet Course at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio (Central).

BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. - Final results from the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship hosted by the University of South Carolina at the University Club at Cobblestone Park. Par: 71. Yardage: 6,204.

1 - Auburn - 289-296-285--870 (+18)
T2 - Arkansas - 295-287-296--878 (+26)
T2 - Alabama - 300-291-287--878 (+26)
4 - Tennessee - 295-293-293--881 (+29)
5 - LSU - 301-286-299--886 (+34)
6 - Georgia - 300-292-295--887 (+35)
7 - Mississippi - 301-298-291--890 (+38)
8 - Florida - 307-295-293--895 (+43)
9 - South Carolina - 299-300-298--897 (+45)
10 - Vanderbilt - 304-301-310--915 (+63)
11 - Kentucky - 313-297-308--918 (+66)
12 - Mississippi State - 318-307-305--930 (+78)

1 - Marta Silva, Georgia - 72-67-71--210 (-3)
2 - Benedicte Toumpsin, South Carolina - 72-69-73--214 (+1)
3 - Mallory Hetzel, Georgia - 73-70-72--215 (+2)
T4 - Kristin Ingram, Arkansas - 73-70-73--216 (+3)
T4 - Cydney Clanton, Auburn - 71-75-70--216 (+3)
T6 - Ginny Brown, Tennessee - 74-72-71--217 (+4)
T6 - Patricia Sanz, Auburn - 77-69-71--217 (+4)
T6 - Jessica Yadloczky, Florida - 72-71-74--217 (+4)
T6 - Lucy Nunn, Arkansas - 70-70-77--217 (+4)
T10 - Brooke Pancake, Alabama - 78-71-69--218 (+5)
T10 - Candace Schepperle, Auburn - 71-74-73--218 (+5)
12 - Haley Wilson, Auburn - 70-78-71--219 (+6)
T13 - Nathalie Mansson, Tennessee - 71-76-73--220 (+7)
T13 - Camilla Lennarth, Alabama - 74-75-71--220 (+7)
T13 - Nicole Smith, Tennessee - 76-69-75--220 (+7)
T13 - Tessa Teachman, LSU - 75-71-74--220 (+7)
T54 - Mariana Macias, Auburn - 82-79-79--240 (+27)