Georgia has been the state’s dominant women’s college golf team for decades, but after a difficult fall season, the Bulldogs begin the spring ranked behind two teams from the state by Golfstat.
After a fall in which they finished last or close to last in three of their four tournaments and placed fourth in their fall finale against a relatively weak field, the Bulldogs are ranked 76th in the country, and at this stage are unlikely to earn a bid to the NCAA Regionals.
The lone Georgia team in line for an NCAA selection entering the spring schedule is No. 35 Kennesaw State which enjoyed a strong fall showing. Mercer is just ahead of Georgia in the rankings at 73.
Here is a 2018 spring preview of the state’s Division 1 women’s college golf teams.
Georgia: With the team’s three top players missing from the lineup in two of four fall starts apiece, the Bulldogs went 3-36 in their first three tournaments and let a first-round lead slip away in their final event, finishing fourth in an event shortened to 36 holes by weather.
Juniors Jillian Hollis, Rinko Mitsunaga, and Bailey Tardy all missed the team’s fall opener due to their efforts to qualify for the LPGA Tour, and Hollis and Mitsunaga both missed the third event after advancing beyond the first stage. Tardy suffered an injury in the qualifying process and did not play well after her return to the team, and missed the fall finale at Atlanta Athletic Club, her home course. Hollis played in that tournament but had to withdraw with an injury after playing one round.
With the three players back in the lineup and hopefully healthy for the spring, Georgia will attempt to turn things around and will need strong showings from all three.
Hollis earned third and second-team All-America status her first two seasons, and tied for ninth in her only completed tournament of the fall against one of the toughest fields in women’s college golf. Mitsunaga, from Roswell, was an honorable mention All-America selection as a sophomore and tied for sixth at AAC in her second start last fall. Tardy, from Peachtree Corners, made first-team All-America as a freshman and honorable mention as a sophomore and will look to rebound in the spring after a tough fall campaign.
Several players will compete for playing spots after playing extensively in the fall. Freshman Paula Neira Garcia led the team with a 12th place finish at Poppy Hills in California, and sophomore Gabriela Coello tied for 11th at Atlanta AC. Also in the mix will be senior Isabella Skinner of Cumming, who joined Coello as the only players to compete in all four fall tournaments. Norcross freshman Elisa Yang, who led the team in the fall opener in the absence of the three juniors, also will be looking to break into the lineup.
Georgia opens its spring schedule in California this month and will host the annual Liz Murphey Classic April 13-15 at the UGA course after playing at Forest Hills in Augusta March 16-18. The SEC Championship is scheduled for late April at Greystone GC in Birmingham.
Kennesaw State: The Owls placed third, fourth and second in their first three fall tournaments before sharing the title in an event hosted by Louisville at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The Owls were led by junior Madison Caldwell of Dawsonville, who transferred from Western Carolina during her sophomore season. Caldwell is the state’s highest ranked individual at 56th nationally, placing third twice and seventh once in the fall.
The Owls also got contributions from junior Roanne Tomlinson and senior Henriette Nielsen, who both had three top 15 finishes, with Nielsen tying for second at Atlanta AC. Freshman Kwan Wongsinth played well in her final two fall events and will be a key performer on a team without much depth.
Kennesaw has February events scheduled in Florida and Las Vegas and also travels to Mexico before closing out the spring with three in-state tournaments. The Owls host an event at Pinetree CC March 26-27, play at the Brickyard in Macon April 8-9 and compete in the Atlantic Sun Championship at the Legends at Chateau Elan April 22-24.
Mercer closed out the fall by winning a tournament it hosted at Idle Hour after finishing in the middle of the pack in its first three starts. Alpharetta junior Payton Schanen shared medalist honors in the Idle Hour tournament, with teammate Terese Romeo tying for third. The two players finished 1-2 in scoring average in the fall for a team that sports a balanced lineup.
Hannah Mae Deems, a senior from Taylorsville, was third in scoring and posted a pair of top-15 finishes. Lauren Lightritz, a sophomore from Cumming, had the team’s only other top-10 in the fall opener in Colorado, with Mary Janiga, one of three junior starters, joining Schanen and Deems as the only players to compete in all four tournaments.
Mercer’s spring schedule includes an event at Forest Hills in Augusta March 16-18 and a tournament hosted by the Bears at Brickyard at Riverside April 8-10. The Southern Conference Championship will be played April 15-17 on Hilton Head Island.
Augusta’s best fall showing was a tie for sixth in a 17-team field at Furman. The Jaguars finished near the bottom in their other three starts. After the graduation of four-year starters Jessica Haigwood of Roswell and Eunice Yi of Evans, Augusta features a predominantly international roster, with senior Maggie Ashmore of Kingsland the lone American player in the regular lineup.
Ashmore was one of the team’s top players in the fall, highlighted by a tie for 12th in Mississippi. Sisters Cecilia and Teresa Diez-Moliner also had team-best finishes in the fall, with Linda Lundqvist low for the Jaguars in their fall finale at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Augusta’s spring schedule includes an event hosted by the Jaguars at Forest Hills March 16-18 and a tournament hosted by Kennesaw State at Pinetree CC March 26-27. Unlike the men, the Augusta women’s golf team competes as an independent and will need an invitation to the NCAA Regionals.
Georgia State had only one finish better 12th in the fall, tying for seventh out of 14 teams in a tournament in Jacksonville. The Panthers relied largely on the play of Lawrenceville sophomore Harmanprit Kour and British freshman Chloe Howard, the only players with tournament finishes better than 34th.
Kaur had the best showing of any Georgia State golfer in the fall, tying for sixth in an event in Florida. Howard was the team’s medalist in three of five tournaments, with a 12th place finish in Jacksonville her best.
Grace Choi, a sophomore from Buford, made four starts in the fall and twice finished with the team’s low score in the final round, including a 74 at the Atlanta Athletic Club Highlands course.
The Panthers host the annual John Kirk Intercollegiate at Eagle’s Landing March 25-27 and play in the Sun Belt Championship in Florida April 15-17.
Georgia Southern finished at or near the bottom in four of five fall starts but turned in a strong showing in an event hosted by Wofford, tying for second among 11 teams. Freshmen Natalie Pearson and Sarah Noonan led the effort in Spartanburg, tying for second and seventh respectively. Teammates Ansley Bowman and Ella Ofstedahl both contributed top-15 finishes.
The second-year program played the same lineup in all five tournaments. Sophomore Julianna Collett of St. Simons, a starter as a freshman last season before being injured, did not play in the fall.
The Eagles’ spring schedule includes an event at Pinetree CC in Kennesaw March 26-27 and the Sun Belt Championship in Sandestin in April.