For more than three decades, women’s college golf in the state was pretty much confined to Athens, with the Lady Bulldogs a consistent contender at the national level.
Georgia won the NCAA Championship in 2001 and made runs at the national title on several other occasions. But the Lady Bulldogs haven’t had a top-10 finish in the NCAA Championship since 2008, and haven’t been among the top five since 2002.
The last time Georgia even qualified for nationals was 2010, and after a forgettable Fall showing against a demanding schedule, the Lady Bulldogs might not make it to the NCAA Championship for a fourth straight year.
For most of its history, Georgia’s women’s team was able to keep the state’s top players at home. Terri Moody, Mitzi Edge, Cindy Schreyer, Nanci Bowen, Vicki Goetze and Angela Jerman all went from playing junior golf in Georgia to UGA before competing on the LPGA Tour. But the Lady Bulldogs have been unable to keep the state’s top players a home for more than a decade.
Two of the top five players in women’s college golf grew up in Georgia, but neither signed with the Lady Bulldogs. Clemson, which is fielding a women’s team for the first time, is ranked well ahead of Georgia, largely due to the presence of two freshmen from the state who are both ranked among the top 30 individuals in the country.
Jonesboro’s Mariah Stackhouse and Milledgeville’s Ashlan Ramsey are the Nos. 4 and 5 players in the country, and are both candidates for the 2014 U.S. Curtis Cup team. Stackhouse is a junior at Stanford and Ramsey is starring as a freshman at Clemson, along with Suwanee’s Sloan Shanahan, the No. 28 player in the rankings.
Not only has Georgia been unable to keep the state’s top players at home, the team has also struggled to attract top talent from the Southeast, resulting in the coaching staff having to fill many of its roster spots with international players. Argentina’s Manuela Carbajo Re and Spain’s Rocio Sanchez Lobato are the Lady Bulldogs’ top two players, but neither is highly ranked nationally.
In four Fall starts, Georgia finished higher than 12th in just one tournament, with an 8th place showing in a tournament in Chicago the team’s best. Because of the difficulty of the Lady Bulldogs’ schedule, Georgia was ranked 44th nationally at the end of the Fall, just five spots ahead of Augusta State, which features two golfers from the state at the top of its lineup.
Freshman Mary Ellen Shuman of St. Simons Island made three Fall starts for Georgia, yielding her spot in the lineup to Alpharetta sophomore Amira Alexander in the final event of 2013. Amelia Hill of St. Simons is the team’s lone senior, but did not play in the Fall.
The Lady Bulldogs have a busy Spring schedule, which began with a one-day, individual tournament in Athens. Georgia plays in an event hosted by Georgia State at Eagle’s Landing Country Club March 30-April 2, with the annual Liz Murphey Collegiate at the University course April 4-6.
Augusta State placed between 3rd and 5th in all four of its Fall tournaments, led by freshmen Jessica Haigwood of Roswell and Eunice Yi of Evans. Haigwood was 8th or better in three of the four events, and ended the Fall with a tie for 2nd at Kiawah Island, with Yi placing 2nd in a tournament hosted by Furman.
The Lady Jaguars’ Spring schedule includes a tournament on the team’s home course at Forest Hills March 14-16. Augusta State came into the Spring ranked 49th in the country.
Georgia State was 58th after the Fall season, with the Lady Panthers’ roster including seven international players and just one American – Lauren Court, a junior from Lawrenceville.
Court was one of five players, including three seniors, who started all five tournaments, leading the team in its Fall opener at Furman
Georgia State will host the annual John Kirk Panther Intercollegiate at Eagle’s Landing Country Club March 30-April 2.
Mercer has the strongest Georgia presence of any of the state’s teams, led by Lacey Fears, a senior from Bonaire. Fears led the team in scoring and helped lead the team to a victory at the LPGA International course in Daytona Beach with a third place finish.
The Lady Bears placed 3rd in their other two full field starts in the Fall, with Mary Alice Murphy earning medalist honors in a tournament in North Carolina.
Freshman Katy Harris from St. Simons played in all four of the team’s Fall appearances, placing 4th in Daytona Beach and winning a four-team tournament on Jekyll Island. McDonough freshman Haley Austin was in the lineup in three of the Fall events.
Kennesaw State played only two Fall tournaments with a limited roster, and has a busy Spring schedule with seven tournaments plus the Atlantic Sun Championship, which will be played April 14-16 at Jekyll Island.
Tifton sophomore Brittany Jarrett was one of just four players who competed in the Fall for the Lady Owls, and is the team’s lone American among seven golfers listed on the roster.
The team’s Spring schedule includes the John Kirk Panther Invitational at Eagle’s Landing March 30-April 1.