April 15, 2010
SEC Championship Practice Round Photo Gallery
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Years before senior Ginny Brown was even on Tennessee women's golf coach Judi Pavon's radar, the Lady Vols were making significant strides in the recruitment of the Austin, Texas, native.
They just didn't know it.
In the spring of 2001, Pavon's Orange and White squad dominated the University of Texas-hosted Betsy Rawls Intercollegiate tournament, sweeping the team and individual titles. A 12-year-old Brown was a spectator at the event and watched the Lady Vols' spectacular performance, even catching the awards presentation.
It's a moment that had a lasting impact on the now 21-year-old team leader.
"I would always go watch Texas' tournament," Brown recalled. "One year I went and watched it and Tennessee was there, and they won. It was a year when Young-A Yang, who is probably the most successful Lady Vol to play here, won too. I went to that tournament several times and watching Tennessee always stuck with me. That was the first time I ever saw the Lady Vols. Before that all I knew was Texas. It made me think, `Tennessee is awesome.' I saw them get their trophy and it was something I still remembered when I began getting recruited."
Despite being one of Texas' best prep golfers, Brown committed to the other UT without ever taking a visit. Her lasting memory of the Lady Vols' win and the bond she built with Pavon and former assistant Carrie Cole were enough to get her to campus.
"Just looking back I think this was the best choice for me," Brown said. "Collegiately, this was the best environment I could've been in. Judi has been awesome and (assistant coach) Andrew (Pratt) has been a great addition. I don't think I could've had a better college experience."
A part of Brown's experience on Rocky Top every step of the way has been classmate Diana Cantú. The pair entered Tennessee as roommates in the fall of 2006. They will leave as the senior leaders of one of the most accomplished Lady Vol golf teams ever.
"I couldn't ask for more from both Ginny and Diana," Pavon said. "Both ladies have been the model student-athletes. They work hard in school and they work hard on the golf course."
Cantú, of Monterrey, Mexico, also committed to the Big Orange before taking an official visit. A star junior player for her country, she was encouraged to check out the Lady Vols by former UT All-American Violeta Retamoza, a fellow Mexican.
Her career scoring average of 76.30 ranks ninth all-time in Tennessee history and she will be looking to play in her third NCAA Championships of her career next month.
"When I first committed I wonder if this was the right place for me and now I can't imagine having gone anywhere else," Cantú said.
Earlier this season, the senior duo helped lead Tennessee to consecutive tournament titles to cap the fall season, capturing the Mercedes-Benz Women's Collegiate Championship and the Alamo Invitational in October.
Both finished in the top-10 at the Mercedes-Benz event, and Cantú actually collected top-21 finishes at all four fall tournaments.
The Lady Vols have yet to recapture their winning form from the fall, even failing to finish in the top-10 at two tournaments this spring. Brown and Cantú both agree, however, this team has the ability to win Tennessee's first-ever women's golf conference championship.
Both will be in the lineup this weekend and counted on not just for their leadership, but for their talent as Tennessee, ranked 14th by Golfweek and 16th by Golfstat, will compete against 11 other teams for the SEC title at the NorthRiver Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
If Tennessee snags the conference title expect Brown to channel her performances from last postseason and Cantú to play like she did in the fall.
A year ago Brown tied for sixth at the SEC Championship in Blythewood, S.C., before collecting a t23rd finish at the NCAA East Regional and an SEC-best tied for 16th placement at the NCAA Championships.
Cantú averaged 72.80 and carded five rounds of par or better in this season's first four tournaments.
The duo appears ready for the challenge.
"We've had a tough spring compared to our great fall," Cantú said. "But I'm so excited that we have a chance to win it this year. It's mine and Ginny's last opportunity to win this tournament. We really want to leave our footprints here - as the first team to win the SEC. This year we have so much talent. It's exciting to realize that we have a team good enough to do it."
Said Brown, "The end goal is winning. For me and the rest of the team it will be about implementing smaller steps to achieve that end goal."
Cantú will go down as having one of the best short games and being one of the most consistent players in Lady Vol history, while Brown will be remembered for her determination to improve - dropping her stroke average from 80.2 to 75.6 between her sophomore and junior years - and her constant leadership off the course.
But they can add more memories over the next two months, starting Friday with the opening round of the SEC Championship.
"For me, I have been trying to give it my all at every tournament because I know this is my final collegiate season," Cantú said. "I'm just trying to enjoy myself more while playing. Finishing strong is important to me."