-courtesy of A-Sun Media Relations-
Three-time defending champion Stetson will lead a field of 10 at the 2012 A-Sun Women's Golf Championship when play begins Monday from Venetian Bay Golf Club in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
A year ago, at Victoria Hills Golf Club, the Hatters trailed in the final round by three strokes, but for the second consecutive year rallied to claim the victory. Two years ago they shot the lowest team score in championship history to rally from a 12-stroke deficit in their first defense of the title. Stetson returns every member from last year’s championship team, four of which finished in the Top 20, including the defending individual champion, Alexandria Buelow.
Buelow enters the Championship as the conference’s top-ranked golfer, according to both GolfStat and GolfWeek. Buelow owns four individual wins this year: Wolf Pack Classic(10/3-4/2011); Holiday Inn Express/Hatter Classic (11/7-8/2011); MSU Ocala Spring Invitational (3/18-20/2012); and Marsh Landing Invitational (4/2-3/2012). She has finished in the Top 10 in eight of the Hatters’ nine tournaments this season and has tallied final round scores of even or under-par three times.
Stetson is one of three Atlantic Sun women’s golf programs ranked in GolfStat.com’s top 100. Kennesaw State owns the top ranking at No. 61, ETSU checks in at No. 66 and Stetson rounds out the group at No. 100. In the GolfWeek.com rankings, Stetson is out of the Top 100, ETSU checks in at No. 65 and KSU remains at No. 61.
In the Golfstat pre-tournament ratings, the defending champion Hatters sit atop the 10-teamfield, followed by ETSU, Mercer, Kennesaw State, Jacksonville, Belmont, FGCU, USC Upstate and Lipscomb.
Individually, Stetson has three players rated in the top 10 of the Golfstat.com pre-tournament ratings, while ETSU, Mercer and Kennesaw State each add two and Jacksonville has one. That list includes Buelow, Gabriella Wahl (ETSU), Mallory Viera (Stetson), Sian Evans (ETSU), Natalie Schmett (Jacksonville), Lauren Cate (Stetson), Mary Alice Murphy (Mercer), Lacey Fears (Mercer), Ket Preamchuen(KSU) and Ines Lescudier (KSU).
With a win, Stetson can become the fourth team in A-Sun history to win four or more championships and only the second team to win four consecutive titles. FIU won four straight from 1991-94. ETSU owns one A-Sun Women’s Golf team title, winning in 2008, but the Bucs have also claimed the individual title twice in the last four years (Laura Jansone, 2008 and 2010).
The Bucs are led by sophomore Sian Evans and freshman Gabriella Wahl, who together this year totaled seven top-10 and 14 top-25 finishes. Evans’s best was third in ETSU’s most recent tournament, the John Kirk/Panther Intercollegiate, and she added two other fifth-place finishes earlier in the season. Wahl finished in the top 10 of three tournaments this season, including medalist honors at the John Kirk/Panther Intercollegiate.
Recentlyrecognized with the top freshman class in the nation by Golfstat.com, KSU makes its fourth appearance at the A-Sun Women’s Golf Championship. The Owls have finished no lower than fourth, including a third-place finish last year and a second in 2009. The sister act of Ket and Keaw Premchuen and Lea Charpier drive the Owls, the older Ket with two top–10 finishes this season and Charpier and Keaw each with one. Ket Preamchuen finished tied for 11th last year and fourth in 2010.
Jacksonville finished seventh in last year’s championship, but this year the Dolphins are counting on two freshmen who helped JU check in at No. 25 on the Golfstat Top 25 Freshman Class Impact Ranking. The duo of Natalie Schmett and Jessica Welch has been dynamic for the Dolphins, who rank 163rd in the latest Golfstat rankings. In six of the team's nine competitions this season, either Schmett or Welch have led the team in scoring. Between them they posted 12 top-25 finishes, and Schmett earned medalist honors at the Wendy’s Invitational (10/17-18/2011) and recorded five top-10 finishes.
FGCU’s Briana Carlson and Fabienne Haremza join Buelow as the returners from the top five of the 2011 Championship. Haremza has three top 10 finishes in 2011-12, including second at the Holiday Inn Express Hatter Classic (11/7-8/2011).
Mercer owns two team titles this season, led by Lacey Fears claiming medalist honors in both. Mercer claimed victories at the Eat A Peach Collegiate, as Fears posted a one-over-par 145. The Bears also raced ahead of the field at the JU Classic, winning the team title by 17 strokes.
Rachel Lewis has four top-15 finishes and Amanda Hall added four top-25 performances for USC Upstate this season. Hall’s finish at No. 31 in last year’s championship was the best for the Spartans. For Lipscomb, sophomore Savanna Schubert recorded two top-five finishes this spring and five toop-25 overall. Schubert became the first Lady Bison in program history to receive A-Sun Women’s Golfer of the Week honors after a fourth-place finish at the Ann Rhoads Invitational (2/17-18/2012). Schubert tied for fourth after finishing only three strokes off the lead with a two-day total of 161.
Venetian Bay Golf Club hosts the A-Sun Championship for the second time. The two nines have a different natural character. The front nine plays through more of the wooded portion of the property and the back nine with fewer trees and more parallel fairways, gives it more of a links look. One of the main features of the course is the plethora of strategically placed bunkers, 114 in all. Venetian Bay previously hosted the A-Sun Championship in 2010, won by Stetson.
Play begins at 8:00 am Monday with USC Upstate and Lipscomb opening play off the first tee. Fans can follow the action at Golfstat.com.