Sept. 11, 2009
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Tennessee Lady Vol women's golf team travels to Yeamans Golf Club this weekend not only to erase memories of last year's season-opening slump, but also to kick-start the 2009-10 season with a victory at the Duramed Cougar Classic.
"Our goal is to win this tournament," Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. "When you have a team this talented and this capable of winning and doing big things, you really have to push them to do that and that's what we're going to do."
UT finished a disappointing 15th at the 2008 Cougar Classic, but returns to the tournament Sunday and Monday, Sept. 13-14, with a much better team and much loftier goals. After a rough fall in 2008, the Lady Vols rebounded during the spring portion of their schedule to qualify for the 2009 NCAA Championships.
The Orange and White will be looking to carry its momentum from the second half of last season into the beginning of this year as four returners from the 2009 postseason team will be in the lineup at the season-opening tournament.
Seniors Ginny Brown and Diana Cantú, junior Lauren Spurlock, sophomore Nathalie Mansson and newcomer Erica Popson bring along a preseason No. 18 ranking to face a field of 17 teams on the par-72, 6,211-yard Yeamans Hall course.
The tournament begins with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start on Sunday and each team will play 36 holes the first day. The tournament wraps up on Monday with a single round of 18.
Brown, Cantú, Spurlock and Mansson helped lead the Lady Vols to a 17th-place finish at the 2009 NCAA Championships in Owings Mills, Md., last May, while Popson is a talented newcomer from Davenport, Fla.
Brown and Cantú are entering their final seasons in Orange and White and Pavon has high expectations for her only seniors.
"If we're going to be as successful as we know we can be this year, Ginny and Diana are going to be a huge part of that success," Pavon said. "Ginny brought her game to a whole new level last season. We're looking for her to continue where she left off last season. Diana didn't have a great year last season, but she's a better player than the way she scored last year. I can tell that her game is really good right now and her confidence is high. I expect her to take it to that next level this season."
Those two, along with Mansson, should contend for various awards this season. Brown was one place away from earning All-America honors after finishing 16th at the NCAA Championships, while Mansson's 73.79 average in 2008-09 broke the old UT freshman mark. She earned Second Team All-SEC, All-East Region and Golfweek honorable mention All-America honors last season.
Popson, the 2008 Florida Junior Tour Player of the Year, could also rack up some hardware as she is expected push Mansson for the Lady Vols' No. 1 spot this season.
Spurlock forced her way into the lineup for the postseason last year after transferring from Belmont and was a key reason the team made it to the NCAA Championships.
This mix of experienced veterans and talented freshman has the Lady Vols looking to contend at each tournament and make a run at the SEC and NCAA titles this season.
"You don't always have a team with enough talent to make winning the national championship a goal," Pavon said. "Now that we do I think it's important that we focus on that early on and start believing in that right away."
The Lady Vols path to their goal begins this weekend at Yeamans Hall.
Familiar Turf: This is the fifth-straight season UT has started the year at the Cougar Classic. Before 2008 Tennessee had never finished outside of the top-three of the tournament. The Lady Vols won the Cougar Classic in 2005 behind Marci Turner's 4-under medalist performance.
UT's Top Competition: Aside from Tennessee there are three other teams ranked in the Golf World/NGCA Coaches' Preseason poll at the tournament: No. 14 Georgia, No. 15 North Carolina and No. 21 Vanderbilt.
Don't Forget About Monberg: Freshman Sara Monberg will be competing in the 2009 Duramed Cougar Classic as an individual. The Juelsminde, Denmark, native has extensive international tournament experience, including the 2007 Junior Solheim Cup.
Results: Live scoring of the tournament can be found at www.golfstat.com. The Lady Vols' twitter account (twitter.com/UTLadyVols) will also be providing updated results after each round.
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