C-N visits reigning national champions at UINDY Invitational

C-N visits reigning national champions at UINDY Invitational

VIDEO: Suzanne Strudwick Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The Carson-Newman women's golf season starts off with a bang this week as the Eagles travel to Carmel, Ind. for the University of Indianapolis Invitational on Monday and Tuesday.

This marks the first time the Eagles will travel to the event that is in its fourth year, hosted by a Greyhound team that holds the title of reigning national champions.

"It is out of conference, it's not the usual teams that we play against and sometimes that's good because there's no history," head coach Suzanne Strudwick said. "The only history we have is playing against three of the teams at Trevecca's (Music City Invitational) event last year in which we performed very well. We finished second in the event and beat two of them which actually got us the invite into this event so, you know, for me, I'm excited about this event and I think they are too."

The sixth-year head coach will take five players with her to the event including sophomore Jayla Sims (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) who will serve as the leader of the group at the No. 1 spot.

Sims was a part of the travel team for six of her seven events last season. She notched three top-20 finishes throughout her debut campaign including a share of 12th at the King Invitational.

Joining her will be veterans Rachel Watts (Newport, Tenn.), Allie Fletcher (Cummin, Ga.) and Taylor Hayes (Lake Ozark, Mo.)

Watts will sit at the second-seed for the Orange and Blue to kick off her junior season. Last year she saw time in six events, splitting her time as an individual and as a member of the travel team.

"(Watts) worked tremendously hard this summer and it shows," Strudwick said. "Allie Fletcher from Georgia has done well. She had a bad nine holes the other day but she'll bounce back."

Fletcher will be at the No. 4 spot for C-N this week as she looks to build upon the two top-20 finishes she saw last season.

As for Hayes, the senior will round out the travel team as the fifth-seed. She competed in seven events in 2017 with a trio of top-10 finishes.

"The usual suspects," Strudwick mentioned. "A couple of new faces, but the usual suspects."

Also making her Carson-Newman debut is Maeve Cummins (Waringstown, Northern Ireland). She will sit at the No. 3 spot for the Eagles in her first event.

"She's had a score that has beaten everybody so far at one-under," Strudwick said of the freshman. "That as a coach is very satisfying that you've seen the potential, that you've been able to evaluate somebody and they've come in, but you're still not sure because you're not sure if what you're seeing or evaluating is going to correspond once they come into school."

The early start to the season mixed with unfavorable stormy weather in the past week has cut down the preparation time the team is used to getting in before heading to its first event of the season. The regularly scheduled 54-hole qualifier had to be cut down due to afternoon storms, forcing the team to make the most of the limited time it could obtain on the links.

"I think coming in and playing so early in the season at such a big event, there might be a few nerves through a little anticipation and now that kind of falls on me as a coach to coach and do my job," Strudwick asserted. "So, you know, we'll have some talks and, obviously, for me, I know the potential of these girls, so it's getting them into the right frame of mind, getting their mindset correct so that they can just go out with freedom and play and execute the shots that they see with freedom. That's what it's all about."

The tournament will take place at the Prairie View Golf Club, the only Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course in the state of Indiana and it is set amidst a picturesque landscape.

The event will begin on Monday morning from Carmel, Ind. A full recap and results will be posted to cneagles.com after each day of competition.