May 22, 2011
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Assistant
BRYAN, Texas - Tennessee Lady Vol sophomore golfer Erica Popson captured National Golf Coaches Association First Team All-America honors Saturday night at a banquet following the 2011 NCAA Golf Championships.
The Davenport, Fla., native had arguably the greatest season ever by a Big Orange golfer in 2010-11, nabbing five first-place finishes, 16 par-or-better rounds and a 72.19 stroke average in 10 tournaments.
Her scoring average shattered the year-old Lady Vol record of 73.06 and her under-par rounds total tied the UT mark - both set by current-junior Nathalie Mansson in 2009-10.
She becomes the third Lady Vol to earn NGCA First Team All-America accolades, joining Young-A Yang (2001) and Violeta Retamoza (2005). Overall, Tennessee has now nabbed 19 total individual All-America awards.
Popson's magnificent season started rolling in October when she won her first career tournament, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz Women's Collegiate Championship in a Lady Vol record 9-under-par 207. However, her All-America campaign really gained steam in the spring.
The nation's leader in par-5 scoring came back from a last-day four-shot deficit to win the Bryan National Collegiate in March before tying with Mansson for the Rebel Intercollegiate to open April.
Popson carried that success to the SEC Championship from April 15-17 in Auburn, Ala., winning conference medalist honors by one stroke with a 6-under 210. She set the tone early at the Auburn Golf Club with an SEC first-round record and personal-low 6-under 66 and never lost the lead.
Her fourth-consecutive first-place performance came in dominating fashion at the NCAA West Regional in Auburn, Wash. She bested the field by five strokes (8-under 208), becoming the first NCAA Division I golfer to grab first in four straight tournaments since Lorena Ochoa won seven straight for Arizona in 2001-02.
At the NCAA Championships this past weekend at the Traditions Club, Popson's bid to become the first Lady Vol national champion fell short, but the world's No. 4-ranked amateur bounced back from a poor opening round to still finish 14th with a 4-over 292 72-hole total. She improved each round and broke par on the final day.
In addition to her First Team All-America award, Popson grabbed All-SEC First Team and All-East Region accolades. She was the SEC Co-Golfer of the Week on March 28, the Golfweek National Player of the Week on May 8 and won the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week honor four times.
Currently the No. 4 ranked amateur player in the world, Popson is expected to lead one of the most-talented Lady Vol teams ever next season, as all five players return following Tennessee's 13th-place showing at the national championships.
The Lady Vols also set a school record for scoring average versus par this season with a 296.12 (8.47 vs. par) mark. UT won two tournaments and tallied seven team rounds at par or below.