ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia women’s golf team will tee off its 2023-24 season on Monday morning with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start at the College of Charleston’s Cougar Classic. The tournament at Yeamans Hall Club will feature 36 holes of play on Monday followed by the final round on Tuesday.
Four Georgia’s six competing golfers will be making their debuts as Bulldogs. The lineup for the tournament features three newcomers – freshman Drive Tunwannarux and graduate transfers Bernice Olivarez Ilas and Jenny Lertsadwattana. Junior LoraLie Cowart and fifth-year senior Caterina Don round out the playing five. In addition, junior Kate Song, a transfer, will compete individually.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had so many unknowns to start the year,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “It’s going to be very exciting, and we’re going to do a bunch of learning as we take this journey to start the season. It always exciting to start and figure out where you are as a team and individually as well.”
The 17-team field features six teams ranked in the preseason polls of Golfweek and/or the the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. Georgia was tabbed No. 18 by Golfweek and No. 21 by the WGCA. LSU headlines the field after being ranked No. 1 by Golfweek and No. 4 by the WGCA. In addition, Ole Miss was tabbed No. 3 by Golfweek and No. 16 by the WGCA, Florida was projected No. 19 by Golfweek and No. 24 by the WGCA, Kentucky was dubbed No. 23 by Golfweek and Clemson was voted No. 25 by the WGCA. Rounding out the competing schools are Charleston, Furman, Illinois, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, N.C. State, Penn State, Tennessee, UCF and Wisconsin.
Tunwannarux led the Bulldogs in qualifying rounds and will occupy the top spot in Georgia’s lineup on Monday.
“I think my approach shots were able to get me closer to the hole and give me more opportunities to make birdies and less opportunities to make mistakes,” Tunwannarux said.
While she has played on a team numerous times, the freshman says she can already see differences in college golf.
“I’ve played team golf because I’ve been on the (Thailand) national team for two years, and I also played on some other teams back home,” Tunwannarux said. “The team here is different though because it’s the same people that you practice with and see them way more often. When I was back home, we were from different schools. Here, we’re pretty much have dinners together almost every day and always help each other in other ways so I would say it’s pretty different. It’s really nice to have these people as my teammates.”
Cowart, who finished second in qualifying, is confident Georgia will put together another strong campaign. The Bulldogs have advanced to the NCAA Championships each of the past two seasons, finishing fifth in 2022 and 14th in 2023.
“Competition wise, how good our team is, I think it’s going to be pretty sound,” Cowart said. “I don’t think it’s going to be too different from last year. I think team camaraderie is going to be an interesting thing, how we work together on the course and in tournament mode because we haven’t seen that yet. As long as everybody keeps their head in it and we all support each other, it won’t be a problem. We’ll all just go and have fun and play great.”
Brewer senses a different type of excitement leading up to this season due to the number of new faces on Georgia’s current roster. Two-thirds of the Bulldogs are in their first season at UGA, with yet another freshman set to arrive in January.
“The piece that I’m thinking about that’s enjoyable to hear is the excitement in their voice about the honor to play for Georgia,” Brewer said. “Some times when you’re a junior or a senior, you forget that. Even though you know it still exists, you’re used to it. There’s still a lot of pride in putting on that ‘G’ and representing what we’ve built here as a program, but there’s a different feel with the newcomers. That excites me as a head coach, seeing them how honored they feel to be playing golf here.”
Brewer believes this year’s roster can continue Georgia’s recent string of postseason success, which also includes sweeps of the individual and team titles at NCAA Regionals in 2021 and 2023.
“We know we can do it,” Brewer said. “The faces are different. The one thing is that we have immediate buy in from any new player in the program. With two-thirds of our roster being new, they’re buying in because they know this is what we’ve done. Jenny, our transfer from New Mexico, gave us a great compliment as a program. She said ‘You guys just play well when it matters. You’re one of the few schools that seem to always be there when the stakes are the highest. I just want to be a part of that.’”
The Bulldogs will be paired with LSU and Ole Miss for Monday’s two rounds. Live scoring will be available via www.golfstat.com.