The Stetson University women’s golf team will face its toughest challenge of the year in the final tuneup before the Atlantic Sun Conference championship tournament when they play in the Web.com Intercollegiate this weekend in Jacksonville.
The tournament, formerly known as the Marsh Landing Invitational, has been beefed up this year and will include two teams ranked in the top 20 in the nation by GolfStat.com, with six other teams that are ranked in the top 75 in the nation.
With all of the heavy firepower assembled for the event, the Hatters will have to play their best golf of the year if they have any hope of defending their title from last year. Stetson is one of just four teams returning to the tournament this year, which has been increased from a 10-team field to a 20-team event.
“Last year we played well at Marsh Landing and were fortunate to win the tournament,” Hatters coach Floyd Kerr said. “The teams we beat last year were solid teams, but the event this year has expanded to 20 teams and probably has at least eight teams in the top 75 in the country.”
The event, sponsored by Jacksonville University, will once again be played at the Marsh Landing Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach. The course will play to a par of 72 covering 5,987 yards. The teams will play a practice round on Sunday before playing 36 holes of competition on Monday. The event will conclude with 18 holes of competition on Tuesday.
The favorites for the tournament will be Purdue (14) and Texas Tech (17), who have both been among the best teams in the nation this year. Four other teams come into the event ranked among the top 50 in the nation – Iowa State (28), UCF (41), East Carolina (44) and Florida State (47).
Texas Tech’s Kimberly Kaufman will be one of the many players to watch in the tournament. She is currently ranked fifth in the nation for the Red Raiders. Frida Gustaffson Spang of East Carolina will be another top player in the field, coming in with national ranking of 37th.
Three of the five Stetson players competed in the tournament last year and should have confidence going back to the Marsh Landing course. Junior Mallory Viera finished fifth last year with a 10-over par score of 226. Sammi Smith also earned a top 10 finish with a 12-over par score of 228 and Claudia Redinger finished tied for 29th.
That trio will be joined this year by juniors Ryan Ashburn and Jenna Hoecker.
“We are coming off a good tournament at Morehead State and if we continue our solid play we could have a nice finish at Marsh Landing,” Kerr said. “Our players continue to develop confidence and show great signs of learning the art of scoring, regardless of their ball striking on a particular day. This ability comes with good on-course thinking plus the maturity they are continuing to develop.”
With the exception of one bump in the road, the Hatters have shown slow and steady improvement throughout the year. Their last time out, at the MSU Ocala Spring Invitational, the team had a second place finish with its lowest team score of the year, 890.
“I still think we are somewhat of an underachieving group, but we have continued to improve,” Kerr said. “Hopefully the JU tournament will be good and we will go into the A-Sun tournament next week with a full head of steam. The A-Sun should be a wide open event and, if we have a hot week, we can win.”
The rest of the field for the Web.com Intercollegiate includes Charleston Southern, Cincinnati, Daytona State, Florida International, Illinois, James Madison, Kennesaw State, Maryland, Michigan, North Florida and Sam Houston State.
Live scoring for the tournament will be available on GolfStat.com.