April 19, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After claiming individual runner-up honors and setting a new Tennessee 54-hole all-time low at the SEC Women's Golf Championship on Sunday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., freshman golfer Erica Popson was named the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week on Monday.
Popson rallied to pull even with Vanderbilt's Marina Alex during the final round of the conference tournament at the par-71, 6,057-yard NorthRiver Yacht Club course by birdying two of her last four holes.
Popson and Alex were tied after 54 holes at 5-under 208 - a Lady Vol record - and faced off in a sudden-death playoff.
The pair birdied the first playoff hole, the par-5 No. 1, but Popson's second shot on the par-4 second hole went into the sand trap and the Davenport, Fla., native had to settle for a bogey. Alex made par on the hole to capture the SEC individual title and Popson nabbed runner-up accolades.
Popson, who had missed much of the spring with a wrist injury and was playing in only her third full tournament since the fall, stormed into the individual race by making six birdies on the front nine to close her second round on Saturday. After opening with a 2-over 73, she carded a 4-under 67 and followed with a 3-under 68 for her record-breaking 208.
The old UT record score of 209 (-7) was held by Marci Turner (2006) and Katharina Larsson (1994). Popson's score in relation to par (-5) is tied for third-best in Lady Vol history behind only the 7-under marks by Turner and Larsson.
Larsson's score came at the 1994 SEC Championships where she won conference medalist honors, a feat Popson nearly matched to become the second UT SEC champion.
Popson's 13 birdies over three days were the second-most at the tournament and her performance dropped her season average by a full stroke - from 76.33 to 75.33.
The freshman's near-victory was the highlight of the weekend for the No. 14/16-ranked Tennessee women's golf team as it placed ninth at the tournament with an 877 (+25) total.
The Lady Vols return to action from May 6-8 at the NCAA Regional where a top-eight finish would propel UT to its sixth NCAA Championship in seven years.
The Big Orange will be counting on another spectacular performance from Popson with the national tournament bid on the line at the three-day event that is expected to be in Greeneville, N.C., when the sites are announced next week.
Popson's LVAW award is the third this season for the women's golf squad, as Nathalie Mansson previously won the honor on April 6 and Oct. 19.