Challenging field of 18 awaits Lady Eagles at Smokey Mountain Intercollegiate

Meridith Hawkins in action at the SAC Championship
Meridith Hawkins in action at the SAC Championship

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – When Carson-Newman hits the Highlands Course at the Sevierville Golf Club, it will do so against a field that features three teams ranked in the top 20 of the WGCA poll and another that's receiving votes. 

No. 12 West Florida, no. 14 Newberry and no. 20 St. Leo all line the field, as does Belmont Abbey, which is also receiving votes in the WGCA poll. 

Carson-Newman first-year head coach Suzanne Strudwick said the quality of competition will be an appropriate early test for the Eagles.

"It's a big week for me personally and this team," Strudwick said. "We've tried to instill a sense of team unity.  We're after a really good start.  It's all about participating and getting the stats right to do the things that will really get us going."

The Eagles return their entire roster intact, led by All-SAC tournament first teamer Meridith Hawkins (Powell, Tenn.). Hawkins, as well as Chelsea Passmore (Knoxville, Tenn.), Danielle Baiunco (Melbourne, Fla.), Lauren Hodge (Jefferson City, Tenn.) and Mary Tunnell (Cordova, Tenn.) all shot sub-80 rounds during the final round of the SAC Championship in April.

"The girls understand the course well," Strudwick said. "It's a course you have to play several times to get to know and these girls have that opportunity through their practice and through what they did at the conference.

"I really love my two seniors in Hodge and Tunnell," Strudwick said. "They'll lead this team.  But we expect big things from Passmore, Baiunco, Hawkins and Pemberton as well."

Carson-Newman will get a glimpse at conference mates Tusculum, Coker, Newberry, Wingate, Catawba and Lincoln Memorial at the tournament. 

"It gives us a chance to see what our competition will be like to as we head into our championship season in the spring," Strudwick said.  "I've told our girls to not put too much pressure on themselves because it's our home course.  I know what we're capable of and I know we can win big, but I don't want the girls to get overloaded with pressure."

Carson-Newman tees off at 8:45 a.m. Check Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for stories, photo and video associated with the event.