Spartanburg, S.C. - Placing two teams in the Top 20 at the Rutgers Invitational the last time out, the USC Upstate women's golf team and head coach Todd Lawton look to finish the fall season on a high note at the Holiday Inn Express Hatter Classic Monday and Tuesday at Victoria Hills Country Club in DeLand, Fla.
Upstate will make its fourth appearance in the tournament hosted by Stetson. Upstate has finished third (2008), sixth (2009) and seventh (2007) in its previous three appearances in the Hatter Classic. Johanna Ebenhag, not in the lineup this week, played in the event in 2007 and 2009, finishing 29th in last year's tournament. Summer Wall finsihed 43rd in her only appearance in the tournament in 2008.
Upstate is one of nine teams in the 54-hole tournament. Joining the Spartans in the tournament are Bethune-Cookman, Daytona State, Florida Atlantic, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville State, Lipscomb, McNeese State and Stetson. Four schools - Upstate, Florida Gulf Coast, Lipscomb and Stetson - are members of the A-Sun. The tournament will be played on the 6,007-yard, par-72 Victoria Hills course. The teams will play 36 holes on Monday and finish the tournament with 18 holes on Tuesday.
Upstate and Lawton will send the lineup of Rachel Lewis, Taylor Pleier, Amanda Hall, Madison Bryant and Summer Wall into action this week. Only Wall has played in the Hatter Classic, helping Upstate to a third-place finish in 2008. She is also the only non-freshman in the lineup this week as four of Upstate's five freshmen will see action.
Lewis tops the Spartans with a 79.1 stroke average, the only Upstate player to average under 80. She is one of two Spartans to card a top 10 finish this season, with fellow freshman Hall also earning a top 10 finish. She owns an 81.3 stroke average as the second-lowest Spartan on the year. Wall has shown tremendous improvement and has turned in some the best scores of her career this season.
Looking Back At The Rutgers Invitational
Although shooting some of its highest scores of the season, Upstate battled the cold, rainy and windy conditions to claim its top finish of the season by finishing 10th in the 20-team Rutgers Invitational in the middle of October. Taylor Pleier and Rachel Lewis led the Spartans by finishing in the top 20. Pleier claimed a tie for 12th with rounds of 79 and 83, while Lewis finished tied for 17th with rounds of 83 and 81. Upstate shot rounds of 334 and 338 for a 672 total, finishing in the middle of the pack for the first time this season.
Building On Momentum
Golf is a game dictated by scores. Sometimes, however, scores don't paint the complete picture. Prior to the Rutgers Invitational, Upstate had posted four consistent rounds of 310, 310, 316 and 316. While the scores at the Rutgers Invitational were higher, 334 and 338, they were also impressive. Due to the weather conditions, all tournament scores were high. The most important number in the tournament was 10. That is where Upstate finished in the 20-team tournament, its best finish of the season. Prior to the Rutgers Invitational, Upstate had finished in the bottom half of each tournament. Despite the team scores each round, the tournament was a success and continued to provide momentum as Upstate looks to close out the fall season this week.
Young But Talented
Despite its youth, it is easy to see that the freshman class head coach Todd Lawton brought in this year is talented and will have a solid foundation for the program as it moves forward. Newbies Rachel Lewis, Amanda Hall and Taylor Pleier have led the Spartans this season, while seniors Summer Wall and Johanna Ebenhag have lended solid leadership. Lewis tops the Spartans with a 79.1 stroke average. Although Upstate is just at the midway point of the year, the scoring average is the third-lowest in program history. Hall ranks second on the team with an 81.3 stroke average, while Pleier is third at 82.9. Pleier has lowered her average by six strokes over the last two tournaments. She averaged just over an 86 through her first two tournaments, but averages an 80 in her final two events.
Lewis, Hall Earn Top 10 Finishes
Last year, Upstate relied heavily on the game of Jennifer Judge. She claimed one top 10 finish on the year and was the only Spartan to finish in the top 10 in any tournament. This season, freshmen Rachel Lewis and Amanda Hall have each recorded top 10 finishes to lead the Spartans. Lewis finished tied for ninth at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate with an even-par score of 144. Hall finished tied for 10th at the Winthrop intercollegiate in Upstate's last tournament outing.