HANAHAN, S.C. — The nationally ranked Vanderbilt women’s golf team kick starts its fall campaign Monday at the 16th annual Cougar Classic in soggy South Carolina.
The Commodores, featuring several standouts from a squad that advanced to the 2019 NCAA Championships by winning the NCAA Auburn Regional in Opelika, Alabama, will face a talented field at the Cougar Classic. The tournament is hosted by the College of Charleston at Yeamans Hall Club in the Charleston suburb of Hanahan.
Head coach Greg Allen is eager to see his Commodores back in action for the first time since May.
“We’re excited to get another season underway,” Allen said. “Several of the girls are coming off great summers where they gained some very good experience. This team has a lot of talent and having four starters back is huge. But I think the key for us this year will be handling expectations.
“We will continue to talk about the things that helped us enjoy some success last year and that’s focusing on things we can control. We’re anxious to compete against some very good teams this week.”
Cougar Classic officials were forced to make schedule changes to the tournament due to the recent impacts of Hurricane Dorian. The 54-hole competition has been shortened to a two-day event, with 36 holes on tap Monday and a final round on Tuesday.
The Vanderbilt Lineup
The Commodores’ lineup on Monday features four returnees: senior Abbey Carlson, juniors Morgan Baxendale and Louise Yu and sophomore Auston Kim. They will be joined by freshman newcomer Jayna Choi.
Carlson, Baxendale and Kim enjoyed postseason highlights after the 2018-19 season. While Carlson joined other top collegiate golfers in the Arnold Palmer Cup international competition, Baxendale and Kim both qualified to the United States Women’s Amateur where they advanced to match play. Kim also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, which was held in Charleston.
Vanderbilt is one of six teams participating that are ranked in the Women’s Golf Coaches Association preseason Top 25. The Commodores are ranked seventh in the WGCA preseason poll, which was released Aug. 30. Other ranked teams entered are No. 5 Florida State, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 and 2019 national runner-up Wake Forest, No. 13 Auburn and No. 18 Arkansas.
The Vanderbilt women will be paired with golfers from Florida and Arkansas in the first and second rounds on Monday.
Other teams entered in the field are Boston College, Penn State, Tennessee, Furman, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgetown Campbell, Georgetown and host College of Charleston.
How the Dores Have Fared in Previous Cougar Classics
Vanderbilt posted its best Cougar Classic result ever in 2018, finishing second among 18 teams. The Commodores posted a 36-hole total score of 549 in the rain-shortened event to finish three strokes behind tourney champion Florida.
The Commodores followed up the Cougar Classic effort in impressive fashion, winning the Mason Rudolph Championships in Franklin, Tennessee.
The Cougar Classic is played at Yeamans Hall Club, one of the South’s top venues. The par-72 course, created by Seth Raynor and Charles Banks in the late 1920s, was restored to its original design three years ago. It currently ranks 87th on Golf Digest’s Top 100 Golf Courses in America. The course will play to 6,265 yards during the tournament.
Vanderbilt Alum Marina Alex Competing Solheim Cup This Week
Former Vanderbilt All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year Marina Alex is in Scotland, preparing for her first Solheim Cup as a member of Team USA.
Alex and her 11 American teammates are expected to practice Monday at Gleneagles Golf Club. The opening day of competition, consisting of foursome and fourball matches between U.S. and European teams, is scheduled on Friday. The Solheim Cup will conclude Sunday with 12 singles matches.
Team USA enters the 16th Solheim Cup as defending champion, having captured a 16.5-11.5 victory in 2017 at Des Moines Country Club in Iowa.
Alex, who qualified seventh on Team USA, will become the first Vanderbilt player to participate in the Solheim Cup. In the last Cup held in Europe, the United States notched a close 14.5-13.5 victory in Germany in 2015.