Upstate Tees Off in Low Country Invitational Sunday
Spartanburg, S.C. - The USC Upstate women's golf team will tee it up for the third time this spring when it opens play at the Low Country Invitational at Moss Creek Golf Club on Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday morning, marking the midpoint of the spring season.
The Low Country Invitational is a 36-hole tournament with 18 holes being played Sunday and Monday. Moss Creek plays at 5,853 yards and is a par-72 layout. The tournament field will consist of 15 teams, all from the eastern part of the United States.
Joining Upstate and host Wofford in the event is Appalachian State, Bowling Green, Brown, The Citadel, Elon, Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville, Newberry, Presbyterian, Princeton, Radford, Tennessee Tech and Western Kentucky.
Upstate head coach Todd Lawton will send the lineup of Brittany Lowe, Amanda Hall, Taylor Pleier, Marissa Clontz and Madison Bryant into action this week. Lowe, Hall and Pleier have played in all seven tournaments this season for the Spartans and have emerged as the lead core of the team. Hall tops the Spartans with an 81.6 stroke average, while Pleier is right behind in second place at 81.6. Lowe has played some solid golf as a freshman and ranks third on the team with an 82.5 stroke average.
Bryant has played in two events this year, including the Spider Invitational at St. James Plantation. Clontz saw her first action of the season, playing as an individual in the Spider and finished higher in the event than a couple of other Spartans. She played their way into the lineup based on qualifying since the Spider.
Upstate finished 11th in the Spider Invitational at St. James the last time out with Lowe leading the way. She was the low Spartan in the tournament and finished tied with Hall for 47th in a fairly large field. Pleier tied Hall for the low round on the team in the final round to highlight the last day.
Spartans Battling for Stroke Average Mark
With three tournaments yet to be played, the 2011-12 Spartans are battling for the best season stroke average in program history. The program launched in 2005-06 and this year's team owns the fourth-best mark in school history at 325.9. The average is the best since the 2008-09 team turned in a 322.3 mark. It also trails the 323.2 average from 2006-07 and 323.9 in 2007-08. This year's team average is better than those recorded in 2005-06, 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Showing Signs of Steady Improvement
Not only has the addition of freshman Brittany Lowe to the team in 2011-12 helped solidify the lineup over the 2010-11 squad, a number of Spartans have worked to lower their stroke averages this season. Amanda Hall, who was arguably the top golfer in the program at season's end last year, has lowered her team-leading stroke average by 0.2 strokes over her career average. Taylor Pleier is 1.4 strokes better this season than her stroke average. Madison Bryant has improved her average by 1.2 strokes per round. When totaling up the improvements of those three players, in particular, the Spartans are 2.8 strokes better per round, which could and has had a positive effect. In addition, Hall is 0.4 strokes better this season than last, Pleier is 2.3 better than last year and Bryant is 1.8 improved over 2010-11.
Looking to Go Low
Through 17 rounds this year, Upstate has broken the 310 barrier just two times. Both rounds came in the Great Smokies Intercollegiate. The first was when the Spartans broke the single-round school record with a 297. They also turned in a 307 in the tournament. However, that is the only time the Spartans have broken 310 this season. Upstate does have four other rounds below 320.
Clontz Battles Way Into Lineup
Junior Marissa Clontz played in the Spider Invitational at St. James Plantation in Upstate's last tournament outing, playing as an individual. By tournament's end, she finished ahead of three of her teammates, two of which were in the team lineup for the tournament. She used that performance to build momentum into qualifying for this week's tournament and has played her way into the starting five at the Low Country Invitational.
Another Record Falls
In Upstate's second tournament of the fall, the unit teamed to break the single-round school record by shooting a 297 in the first round of the Great Smokies Intercollegiate. Taylor Pleier, Amanda Hall and Brittany Lowe each shot 74 en route to the record. The round was two shots better than the previous record of 299 shot at the Great Smokies in 2008.