April 14, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 14/16-ranked Tennessee women's golf team brings two tournament victories and seven top-six team finishes this season as well as the reigning SEC Women's Golfer of the Week to the 2010 SEC Championship this weekend.
The Lady Vols will be chasing their first-ever conference title at the par-71, 5,963-yard NorthRiver Yacht Club course. The Big Orange, three-time conference runners-up, will tee off from the first hole at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, with action continuing Saturday and Sunday.
"The goal we set at the beginning of every season is to win the SEC," Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. "This team works really hard and it deserves this. This spring we've managed to beat ourselves, so we've worked hard the last two weeks to eliminate the mistakes that have been hurting us. I know we're going to give it all we have and we're going to compete for the title. I hope we can come out on top."
At Tennessee's last tournament, the Bryan National Collegiate from April 2-4, sophomore Nathalie Mansson scorched the Bryan Park Golf and Enrichment Center with a career-best-tying 3-under 213 and a runner-up finish to lead UT to a tied for sixth team placement and nab the conference's top player bi-weekly honor.
The Stockholm, Sweden, native takes four straight top-10 finishes and a Lady Vol single-season record 72.96 stroke average to Tuscaloosa, Ala. Her average is tied for fourth in the conference, and she's ranked No. 14 (third-best in the SEC) in the latest Golfstat Cup individual ratings.
On the season she has two wins, seven top-10 finishes, 12 rounds of par or better and 75 birdies.
With statistics like that, it wouldn't be a surprise for Mansson to become the second Lady Vol ever to claim SEC medalist accolades. Katharina Larson, also of Sweden, snagged the conference title for the Orange and White in 1994.
"Nathalie is a tough competitor," Pavon said. "She wants to win every week. This week will be no different for her. She's totally capable of winning this event."
Cantú is in the midst of a career year, carrying a 75.00 stroke average, while Brown led the Lady Vols in the postseason a year ago, collecting three top-25 finishes and nailing a hole-in-one at the 2009 conference competition.
Monberg has finished among UT's top-three at the last six tournaments, while Popson's average of 76.33 is eighth among SEC rookies.
The SEC Tournament figures to be one of the most competitive conference championships in the country with seven of the league's 12 teams ranked in the Golfstat Top-25. In addition to UT (Golfstat No. 16), fourth-ranked Auburn, sixth-ranked Alabama, No. 15 Georgia, No. 17 LSU, No. 19 Florida and No. 20 Vanderbilt are also ranked.
Auburn is the defending SEC Champion, while Georgia sophomore Marta Silva Zamora won medalist honors in 2009. Led by Brown's tied for sixth finish, UT placed fourth at the conference event a year ago.
This fall Tennessee won back-to-back tournaments - the Mercedes-Benz Women's Championships and the Alamo Invitational - in October with Mansson also capturing medalist honors at both events.
In the spring, however, the Lady Vols have yet to finish atop the leaderboard, coming as close as third at the Kinderlou Forest Challenge in March, but failing to finish in the top-10 twice. In addition to tying for sixth at the Bryan National event, the Orange and White also collected a sixth-place at the Tiger-Wave Classic in mid-March.
After the SEC Championship, Tennessee will take a few weeks off before competing at the NCAA Regionals from May 6-8. The Lady Vols will compete for a second-straight invitation to the NCAA Championships (from May 18-21 in Wilmington, N.C.) at one three sites: East Carolina, Indiana and Stanford.