HOOVER, Ala. – The Vanderbilt women’s golf squad will seek its third conference title when first-round play opens at the Southeastern Conference Championships Wednesday at Greystone Golf and Country Club.
The Commodores, a consensus top-10 squad, also hope to raise their national profile and NCAA regional seeding with a strong performance at the SEC Championships, which features six teams ranked among Golfstat’s Top 25. At No. 5, Vanderbilt enters the league tournament as the Golfstat’s highest ranked SEC team.
The Commodores also are looking to improve on their 2018 conference result when they were ousted by Alabama by a slim 3-2 margin in quarterfinal match-play action. The SEC women’s tournament format was modified last year to feature 54 holes of stroke play, with eight teams advancing to championship match-play playoffs.
The Commodores, coming off back-to-back titles at the Lamkin Invitational in Rancho Santa Fe, California and Clemson Invitational, will feature a lineup that includes senior Courtney Zeng, junior Abbey Carlson, sophomores Morgan Baxendale and Louise Yu, and freshman Auston Kim.
Head coach Greg Allen said his squad has prepared well for the tournament which kicks off the team’s postseason calendar. He hopes the Commodores stay confident, composed and focused through the competition.
“This is just the next tournament on our schedule, our next opportunity to compete,” Allen said. “The biggest difference this week over other weeks are more distractions. We need to look past those and not make this tournament any bigger than it needs to be.
“I think we’ve done a really good job all year of managing our expectations and we’ll continue to talk about that all week. We need to stay focused, be patient and control our emotions. Most of all, we need to have a lot of fun,” Allen added.
Paired with Arkansas and South Carolina in Opening Round
The Commodores will be paired with No. 7 Arkansas and No. 10 South Carolina off the first tee Wednesday, starting at 9:40 a.m. Yu and Baxendale, both SEC All-Freshman recipients last year, are first off for the Commodores, followed by Zeng, Kim and Carlson.
Commodores Have Successful Match-Play Experience
If Vanderbilt advances to match-play playoffs on Saturday, the players will have positive experience from recently competing in the format. In March, the Commodores collectively were 13-1-1 in three rounds of match play while sweeping the Lamkin Invitational title in Southern California.
“Hopefully we play well enough to earn a Saturday morning tee time. If so, we can lean on last year’s [SEC] experience and our performance at the San Diego State [Lamkin] tournament,” Allen said.
The SEC Championship match-play finals are scheduled Sunday morning.
Vanderbilt Successes at the SEC
The Commodores have captured SEC championships in 2004 and 2014, the latter coming at the Greystone layout. In 2018, the Commodores advanced to match play by finishing seventh overall after 54 holes of stroke play.
Three Commodores have captured medalist honors at the SEC Championships: May Wood in 2004, Marina Alex in 2010 and Simin Feng in 2014.
Gunning for School-Record Win Total
If Vanderbilt departs Greystone with the SEC crown, it will mark a record-breaking sixth tournament title for the 2018-19 Commodores. They currently share the wins record with the 2003-04 squad that featured co-SEC Player of the Year May Wood and All-SEC recipients Sarah Jacobs, Chris Brady and Courtney Wood.
Leading to this weekend, the Commodores have claimed team titles at the Mason Rudolph Championship, UCF Challenge, Reynolds Lake Oconee Invitational, Lamkin Invitational and Clemson Invitational.
Kim Enjoying Remarkable Freshman Campaign
Kim enters the SEC tourney in the midst of one of the finest seasons ever by a Vanderbilt freshman. One of three Commodores ranked among the SEC top-10 individuals, Kim has captured three SEC Freshman of the Week honors this season. She has also produced top-five individual results at the Powerade Cougar Classic, Mason Rudolph Championship, UCF Challenge, Reynolds Lake Oconee Invitational and Clemson Invitational.
Kim is still looking for her first collegiate title. With an individual win this week, Kim would join Feng as Commodore freshmen to claim SEC medalist honors.
SEC Network Coverage of the Championships
For the second year, the SEC Network will provide live coverage of the match-play semifinals on Saturday and finals on Sunday.
Coverage on the semifinals starts Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on SEC Network+. Championship finals coverage starts Sunday on the SEC Network at 7:30 a.m.