JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. – As coach Floyd Kerr and the Stetson women’s golf team gets set to take part in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship Tournament April 14-16 in Georgia, the Hatters need only look to the recent past for inspiration.
The 25th Atlantic Sun Women's Golf Championship begins Monday, April 14, as teams set their sights to Pine Lakes Course once again for a chance to win a conference championship.
Live scoring will be available throughout the tournament at GolfStat.com. News and information on the A-Sun Championship will be available at AtlanticSun.org.
It was just a couple of years ago that Stetson completed a run of three straight league tournament titles (2009-10-11), and Kerr said his 2014 team has much in common with those teams.
“The three years we won the conference tournament, we were never the favorites going in,” Kerr said. “I think there is a lot to be said for that. When you play the conference tournament there is a little bit different feeling when you go to the first tee.”
The Hatters won’t be the favorites this year when they walk to the first tee at Pine Lakes Golf Club in Jekyll Island, Ga. Stetson will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament, behind Mercer, East Tennessee State and Kennesaw State.
Kerr said that even though Mercer is the top seed going in, the team he thinks will set the pace is defending champion ETSU.
“In my mind, East Tennessee, who won on this course last year, is the stronger team,” Kerr said. “If East Tennessee gets out to a six or eight shot lead on the first day of the tournament, they will be very difficult to catch. If it is close after the first and second day, then anyone could win.”
Last season's championship saw ETSU capture the team title with a three-round total of 880. The Bucs return four of their five players and currently have the highest Golfweek and Golfstat ranking among Atlantic Sun teams. ETSU looks to become the 11th repeat champion in the championship's 25-year history.
Kennesaw State's Ines Lescudier returns to defend her individual title. Last year, Lescudier shot a 6-under 210, including an A-Sun Championship record 66 in the final round, to capture the individual medalist honor. Six of last year's top seven individual golfers return in 2014.
Overall, the A-Sun celebrated six tournament victories this year. Mercer led the way with two wins, while Jacksonville made history winning for the first time since 2006-07. ETSU, FGCU and Lipscomb were the other tournament winners over the course of the 2013-14 season. Individually the conference had eight golfers claim tournament victories.
The Hatters will rely on a quartet of senior players, along with one freshman, to end a two-year dry spell at the A-Sun Tournament. He thinks that all five players are peaking at the right time and all have a chance to play very well.
“I am real pleased with where we are with regard to ball-striking,” Kerr said. “If we have a good three days up there, then it is possible for us to beat the three teams ranked ahead of us. I think we do have a chance to win and I think the girls think we have a chance to win.”
Senior Ryan Ashburn, who is actually fifth on the team in scoring average this year, has been the Hatters’ best player this spring. She posted consecutive top 20 finishes to start the spring season, averaging three-over par per round.
Another senior, Mallory Viera, is second on the team in scoring average and is returning to a course where she finished fourth in the league tournament last year, posting an even par score for the event.
Freshman Alessandra Kutz has the Hatters’ best scoring average for the year, but struggled some this spring after December surgery. In the fall she did not finish lower than 21st in any tournament and had just one round with a score of 80. In her first two spring tournaments her average climbed to 78.3, but Kerr said she is returning to the form she had before the procedure.
“I think her swing is back to where it was in the fall and I think she is confident in her swing again,” Kerr said. “Mentally, she has a lot of confidence right now. I think she is back to where she was in the fall.”
“For us to be competitive at the conference tournament, we will have to have four good scores every day,” Kerr said. “That is something we have been lacking, and has been our biggest problem this spring. We have not been getting four good scores. When you have to count an 80, you can’t beat good people.”
Redinger will get play started for the Hatters on Monday with a 9:30 a.m. tee time. She will play with Megan Collins of Jacksonville and Lauren Coe of UNF. Ashburn will follow at 9:39 a.m. playing with JU's Morgan Matchett and UNF's Belinda George.
Hoecker will begin her championship play at 9:48 a.m. playing with Sabrina Runbaugh of JU and UNF's Nathalie Nygren. Kutz will tee off at 9:57 a.m. along with playing partners Natalie Schmett of Jacksonville and Kelly Aylwin of UNF.
Viera will be the final Hatter to take to the course in the first round, with a 10:06 a.m. tee time. She will be joined by Jessica Welch of JU and Emelie Alpe of UNF.