March 7, 2009
SORRENTO, Fla. - The Tennessee women's golf team will travel to the UCF Challenge for its third tournament of 2009, and first of the year on U.S. soil this Sunday through Tuesday.
Juniors Diana Cantú and Ginny Brown, senior Nicole Smith, sophomore Lauren Spurlock and freshman Nathalie Mansson will be competing for the Lady Vols at the RedTail Golf Club's par-72, 6,300-yard course.
Tennessee and host-Central Florida tied for 14th with a total score of 894 at the 2008 UCF Challenge. Smith tied for 47th with a total score of 223, Cantú tied for 52nd (224) and Brown tied for 86th (235) at the tournament last season.
The 2009 edition of the tournament features arguably the toughest field of the season outside of the NCAA Championships as 13 of the top 20 teams in the latest Golfweek poll will be competing at the event, including: No. 1 Arizona State, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 USC, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Auburn, No. 9 Duke, No. 11 LSU, No. 12 Pepperdine, No. 13 Purdue, No. 14 Vanderbilt, No. 15 North Carolina and No. 20 Arizona.
"This is another very tough field," Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. "It's good preparation for the postseason to play against the best teams in the country. Our goal for this week is to finish in the top five, so we've worked on sharpening our short games and putting to try to make the difference. This tournament will give us a good opportunity to beat some highly-ranked teams which will in turn help our confidence and our ranking. We've had two pretty good outings this spring that have helped us move 17 spots in the Golfstat rankings, and we know a strong finish this week will help us make even more progress. All of our players have improved during the season and their games are really solid right now." UT received 33 votes in the first Golfworld/NGCA Division I Coaches Poll of the spring, finishing just out of the top-25, with the 27th most votes. The Lady Vols are 34th in the Golfstat rankings and 37th in the Golfweek rankings.
Mansson, who finished third at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic on Feb. 10 and tied for 12th at the Wildcat Invitational on Feb. 24, leads the Lady Vols with a 73.71 scoring average. The Stockholm, Sweden, native is ranked 50th in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin performance index. At her current pace, Mansson's scoring average would rank her fifth all-time in single-season average in Lady Vol history.
Smith, an All-America selection in 2006, will be playing in her second tournament of the season. She tied for 50th at the Wildcat Invitational with a total score of 233 in her inaugural tournament of her final season.
The 54-hole tournament tees off at 9 a.m. on Sunday and Monday and at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday.