May 22, 2009
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Junior Ginny Brown continued her phenomenal postseason and carded a 2-over 74 on the final day of the 2009 NCAA Women's Golf Championships to lead the Tennessee women's golf team to a fourth round score of 311 (+23) at Caves Valley Golf Club.
The Lady Vols finished with a 72-hole total of 1237 (+85) at the challenging par-72, 6,443-yard course. UT placed 17th at its eighth national championship tournament.
"I'm disappointed in how we finished this tournament because it really was a strong season for us," Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. "We know we could've placed higher and every shot here and there makes a difference. The course was very difficult. Without having five solid scores out there it was hard to get anything going. But I'm very proud of what this team has accomplished this season, and I'm excited for next year."
Tennessee, ranked No. 24, had a dismal start to the 2008-09 season, placing out of the top-10 in three of four fall tournaments and failing to crack the Golfstat top-50. A spot in an NCAA Regional wasn't even assured as the team took a two-month break from competition in the winter. UT turned the season around in the spring, though, finishing in the top-eight at every tournament and placing third at the NCAA East Regional to earn its fifth national championship appearance in six seasons. Along the way the Lady Vols also placed second at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic in February and fourth at the SEC Championship in April.
No player embodied the 2008-09 Tennessee women's golf team's turnaround more than Brown, who entered the season with an 80.8 career stroke average. After finishing with a total score of 72-75-77-74=298 (+10) at her first NCAA Championship, Brown finishes her junior campaign with a 75.64 stroke average. She carried UT through the postseason, tying for sixth at the SEC Championships, 23rd at the NCAA East Regional and 16th at the NCAA Championships this week.
She was clutch down the stretch on Friday, as well, shaking off a three bogeys on her second nine and sinking a 30-footer for birdie on her and UT's final hole of the season. It was the second consecutive long birdie on No. 9 for Brown, who finished the tournament with a UT-best 10 birdies.
"It goes back to working on finishing," Brown said. "I found a way to focus on the last hole and I think I got a little lucky. I'm happy about my finish today. This was a really good tournament for me. Looking back on where I was last year at this point, I've come a long way and if feels good.
"I'm really proud of my team and how we came back this spring, but I know we were hoping to come here and perform better at this tournament. It's a little bit bittersweet. We really came here with high hopes of competing for the championship."
By tying for 16th, Brown becomes the 10th Lady Vol ever to earn a top-25 NCAA Championships finish.
"Ginny had a fantastic tournament," Pavon said. "I'm really proud of her for playing this golf course so well. Her ball-striking and putting were great this week."
Freshman Nathalie Mansson fired a 4-over 76 to cap her rookie season for the Orange and White. She tied for 48th with an 81-77-71-76=305 (+17) total. She finishes 2008-09 with the sixth-lowest season average - 73.79 -- in Lady Vol history. Her average is also the lowest mark ever by a UT freshman, breaking the old record of 74.15 by Violeta Retamoza in 2002.
Junior Diana Cantú matched her first-round score of 78 on Friday to finish the tournament with a total score of 78-81-81-78=318 (+30) to tie for 102nd.
Senior Nicole Smith carded an 83 in her final collegiate round. She finished with a total score of 76-80-77-83=316 (+28) to tie for 96th at her third NCAA Championships. Smith caps her four years in Orange and White with the fourth-lowest career scoring average (74.96) in Lady Vol history.
"Nicole has had a great career and I'm really going to miss her," Pavon said. "She is one of the best players I've ever coached and one of the best players ever to compete for the Lady Vols. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she can do in her professional career."
Smith returned from injury to the team in the spring and managed three top-20 placements and All-SEC Second Team honors in her final season.
Sophomore Lauren Spurlock rounded out UT's national championship competitors, registering an 84 on Friday and finished her inaugural NCAA Championship with an 84-83-85-84=336 (+48) total en route to placing 124th.
Arizona State fired a final round total of 291 to hold off PAC-10 rivals UCLA and USC for the national championship. The Sun Devils finished with a total score of 1182 (+30) and were led by 2008 individual champion Azahara Munoz, who tied for fourth with a score of 293 (+5). UCLA finished second at 1190 (+38), while USC placed third with a score of 1191 (+39).
The Trojans' Jennifer Song held a one stroke lead on the individual leaderboard heading into her final hole, No. 18, but made double bogey on the par-4 to finish one stroke behind Purdue's Maria Hernandez in the medalist race. Hernandez finished with a 72-hole total of 1-over 289.
UT began the final round on fire on the back nine.
Cantú started the round by making a 15-footer for birdie on No. 10, and Mansson came within inches of a birdie on her first hole. However, the Stockholm, Sweden, native went 1-under on the next hole by sinking a four-footer.
Mansson, Cantú and Brown were all even through nine holes, but the Lady Vols' fourth scorer - Smith - made triple-bogey on No. 18 and UT made the turn at 8-over.
The Lady Vols lose only Smith from this year's squad and appear poised for an even better 2009-10 season.
"I'm really excited for next year," Brown said. "I can't believe I'm going to be a senior. I feel like I've learned a lot this year and I can carry that over to next season."
Final results of the 2009 NCAA Women's Golf Championships can be found at www.golfstat.com.
|Lady Vol Placements|
|T16.||Ginny Brown||72-75-77-74=298 (+10)|
|T48.||Nathalie Mansson||81-77-71-76=305 (+17)|
|T96.||Nicole Smith||76-80-77-83=316 (+28)|
|102.||Diana Cantú||78-81-81-78=318 (+30)|
|124.||Lauren Spurlock||84-83-85-84=336 (+48)|