May 20, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
WILMINGTON, N.C. - With a second even-par round in three days, freshman Erica Popson has put herself in the mix for All-America honors at the 2010 NCAA Women's Golf Championships.
The Davenport, Fla., native fired a 72 on Thursday at the Country Club of Landfall's Pete Dye Course and is one stroke outside of the top-10 with one round remaining at the national championship tournament.
She has a 72-73-72=217 (+1) three-day total and is tied for 16th. Popson has led the 12th-ranked Tennessee women's golf team all three days at the competition. The top 10 finishers at the tournament are assured of NGCA All-America honors.
"I played really well today," Popson said. "I hit the ball great. I hit a lot more greens and I gave myself a lot more birdie opportunities. I made a couple mistakes, but I ended up even, so I'm happy with that.
"The last two tournaments I've played I've been in the mix to win. I've gotten to see how it is. I'm excited. I'm sure I'll be a little nervous tomorrow morning, but being nervous means you are in the hunt."
Paced by Popson and classmate Sara Monberg, who carded a 73 to improve by nine strokes from round two, the Big Orange collected a 12-over 300 team total for round three. Tennessee is 40-over (904) and will start the final round in 20th-place. UT will tee off from No. 10 with Tulane and Kent State at 9:06 a.m. on Friday.
Golfstat.com will provide live hole-by-hole results, while twitter.com/utladyvols will have updates from the course. Additionally, NCAA.com will live stream holes 16, 17 and 18. Beginning the day from the back nine, Tennessee started well, dipping below par as a team for the first few holes. The Lady Vols ran into trouble on No. 16, though.
The par-3, 157-yard 16th proved to be the toughest hole for the entire field on the day, as water separates the tee from the green and surrounds the right side, where the pin was placed on Thursday. Competitors averaged 0.72 above par for the hole during the third round.
Popson, Monberg and senior Diana Cantú all put the ball in the water. Among the five UT competitors, the Orange and White were 10-over on No. 16. Take away that hole and four of five Lady Vols shoot their best round of the week and Tennessee nabs its top team total.
Monberg was able to rebound from a double-bogey on No. 16 to play 2-under golf her final 11 holes, with no bogeys. She made numerous clutch putts and birdies on two par-5s, Nos. 18 and No. 4, en route to her huge improvement from her second-round 81. She has a 230 (+14) total and is tied for 96th.
"It feels great," Monberg said. "I was so disappointed after I shot 9-over yesterday. I wanted to go out today and play better. I knew I had the game, I just had to play it."
The highlight of the day was Popson's eagle on No. 18. A par-5, she nearly drove the green in two, landing her second shot a few feet away on an uphill on the fringe.
She drilled the eagle-putt from approximately 45 yards to cheers from spectators. It was the first eagle of the third round.
Six of Popson's last nine rounds have been at par or below and she hasn't shot above a 73 since the Bryan National Collegiate at the beginning of April. She will have the opportunity to become just the fourth Lady Vol freshman to earn All-America honors on Friday.
Rounding out Tennessee's scores for round three were sophomore Nathalie Mansson, who carded a 5-over 77, and junior Lauren Spurlock and Cantú, who each fired 6-over 78s. Spurlock's round was her best of the tournament.
Mansson joins Monberg in a tie for 96th with a 230 (+14) total, while Cantú is one stroke better in tied-for-90th. Spurlock has a 241 (+25) tally and is tied for 120th.
No. 8 Purdue (858) fired an 8-under third round to take a seven-stroke lead over No. 4 Southern California (865). No. 5 Arizona State and No. 7 Alabama, the SEC Champions, are tied for third with 871 totals.
Arizona State's Jennifer Johnson (207) holds a one-shot advantage over Oklahoma State's Caroline Hedwall (208) in the individual medalist race with 2009 NCAA Runner-up Jennifer Song of USC (210) and Maude-Aimee LeBlanc (210) tied for third.
|LADY VOL SCORES|
|t16.||Erica Popson||72-73-72=217 (+1)|
|t90.||Diana Cantú||76-75-78=229 (+13)|
|t92.||Nathalie Mansson||73-80-77=230 (+14)|
|t109.||Sara Monberg||76-81-73=230 (+14)|
|t121.||Lauren Spurlock||84-79-78=241 (+25)|