Spartanburg, S.C. - The USC Upstate women's golf team returns to the course for the first time since Oct. 15 when it closes out the fall portion of its schedule Monday and Tuesday at the Hatter Classic in DeLand, Fla. It will mark the fifth and final tournament of the fall for the Spartans.
Upstate is one of nine teams who will play in the Hatter Classic being hosted by A-Sun rival Stetson at Victoria Hills Golf Club. Victoria Hills plays at 6,070 yards and is a par-72 layout. The course has been the site of the A-Sun Conference Championships in recent years.
Upstate is joined in the tournament by Bethune-Cookman, Daytona State, Florida Atlantic, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Lipscomb, Seminole College and Stetson. Stetson is ranked No. 114 in the latest Golfweek ranking as the highest ranked team in the tournament. The Hatters have won the last four Hatter Classic tournaments.
Upstate will make its fifth appearance in the Hatter Classic this week. The Spartans' best finish came in 2008 when they finished third behind the strong play of Richia Wedzik, who finished seventh. Upstate has also finished sixth (2009), seventh (2007) and eighth (2010) in the event.
Upstate is coming off a tie for 11th out of 19 teams at the Rutgers Invitational on Oct. 15. The Spartans were led by Amanda Hall, who finished tied for 12th out of 98 players. Rachel Lewis also earned a top 35 finish, tying for 34th.
Upstate head coach Todd Lawton will send the lineup of Lewis, Hall, Taylor Pleier, Brittany Lowe and Kristi Goodman into action for the Hatter Classic. The unit played together for the first two tournaments of the season, finishing eighth at the Terrier Intercollegiate and 14th at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate. The Spartans are averaging 319.9 for the year. Lewis tops the club with a 78.0 stroke average, while Hall is second at 79.0.
Looking Back at the Rutgers Invitational
Amanda Hall had a tremendous tournament and claimed a top 15 position when she finished tied for 12th at the Rutgers Invitational on Oct. 15. Hall turned in rounds of 76 and 81 to finish with a 36-hole 157 total. It marked the first time this season that someone other than Rachel Lewis finished as the low Spartan in a tournament. Lewis turned in a top 35 effort when she totaled 162 to finish tied for 34th. Hall and Lewis led Upstate to team rounds of 322 and 331 to finish tied for 11th in the 19-team tournament.
Lewis, Hall Lead the Way
Last year, Rachel Lewis and Amanda Hall led the Upstate cause. The two teamed to be the low Spartan in 11 of the 12 tournaments the Spartans played. This season, it is much the same. Lewis currently tops the Spartans with a 78.0 stroke average, while Hall is second just one stroke back at 79.0. They are also the two Spartans with a winning percentage over .500. Lewis has a .731 winning percentage with a 231-85 head-to-head record against the competition. Hall owns a .592 winning percentage with a 187-129 head-to-head record. Lewis finished as the low Spartan in each of the first three tournaments on the year, while Hall was the low finisher in the last tournament, the Rutgers Invitational.
A Solid Top Four
Upstate struggled to find a consistent contributor at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots throughout last year. This season, the Spartans have solidified the No. 4 spot and are looking for the same out of the No. 5 position as the year progresses. Rachel Lewis, Amanda Hall and Taylor Pleier, all sophomores this season, formed a strong core last year. Brittany Lowe has solidified the No. 4 position, alternating with Pleier at the 3/4 spots. Lewis leads the team with a 78.0 stroke average, Hall is second at 79.0 and Lowe and Pleier average 81.4 and 81.5, respectively, through the first four tournaments of the season.
Lowering the Stroke Averages
One thing that head coaches love to see out of their players is improvement in each player's career. Upstate has had four players play in tournaments this season who competed last season as well. All four have lowered their stroke averages from a year ago. Rachel Lewis is 2.8 strokes better than she was last season. Amanda Hall is 2.5 strokes better. Taylor Pleier has had an improvement 2.4 strokes. Madison Bryant has lowered her stroke average by four strokes.
Church Returns to Upstate
As a founding member of the women's program in 2005, Audrey Church helped establish the tradition for the Upstate team. She has returned to help lead the program in another facet, this time serving as the assistant coach. Church was a mainstay in the lineup for four years from 2005-09 and was a solid contributor alongside Richelle Wedzik, Richia Wedzik and Julie Miller. She is also an assistant professional at Woodfin Ridge Country Club and head's up the Woodfin chapter of Spartanburg's First Tee program.