VIDEO: Suzanne Strudwick Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Nearly two weeks removed from its season-opening ninth-place finish at the UINDY Invitational, the women's golf team looks to bounce back as it defends its back-to-back titles at the King Invitational on Monday and Tuesday in Bristol, Tenn.
This will be the third showing in the nearby event for the Eagles, winning both of their appearances. Last year, C-N won the event by an astounding 21 shots compared to a three-stroke win in 2016. Beyond that, Elizabeth England was the top individual in both showings, giving the Eagles a strong reputation in the tournament.
"I know the field has a better caliber of teams in it this year so perhaps won't be quite as easy of a walk as it has been," head coach Suzanne Strudwick said. "Not taking anything away. My girls have played very well up there. They are very comfortable on that course.
"For us, I think because we are commuting, it's so close, it does feel like home turf. We're going for the three-peat."
Five of the Eagles who participated in the event last year will make their returns this time around. Of those five, three will be going back to Bristol for a third time.
Jayla Sims (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) will head into a second-straight event as the leader for the Eagles. The sophomore opened the season with a +13 outing at UINDY where she marked a career-low round score of 72 to open the event. That 72 was the best first round score for all C-N participants.
Last year at King as an individual, Sims was 17-over par, good enough for a tie for 12th in her first-ever collegiate event.
The No. 2 seed for the Eagles will be Rachel Watts (Newport, Tenn.). She was the leader among the Eagles on the leaderboard by the end of the event in Carmel. She carded a 224 for her best 54-hole score in the Orange and Blue, helping her tie for 20th, her second top-20 finish of her career.
Her third appearance in Bristol comes a season after she tied for 20th at 21-over, shooting eight strokes better than her score back in 2016.
Taylor Hayes (Lake Ozark, Mo.) will head into her third King Invitational outing sitting in the third-spot on the travel squad. She has ended up in the top-10 of both of her previous trips to Bristol with her best showing being last year when she landed at seventh place in the field at 13-over.
To start her senior campaign, she was +16 at UINDY with a stroke average of 77.3.
Olivia Williams (Cleveland, Tenn.) will make her travel team debut at King, holding down the fourth—spot in the lineup. She competed in the Bob Dibble Classic with the C-N B-Team on Sept. 10 and 11 where she tied for 11th. She opened the two-day tournament with a 75 before an 82 in the second round pushed her to 15-over par with a 157.
She along with Anna Davenport (Roswell, Ga.) and Reagan Kinnie (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) move from the B-Team outing in Greeneville, Tenn. to the travel team rosters as a team member and individual, respectively.
"We fared very well. The team finished second," Strudwick said. "Even though we had a B-Team playing, it was still a very high caliber of scores and so everybody got a chance to play last week."
Moving from an individual last year to a member of the travel team this year, Davenport will fill the No. 5 for C-N. The senior tied for 15 during her first appearance in the event with a 161 total. She tied for ninth at the Bob Dibble Classic a couple of weeks ago. There she recorded the lowest round score of her career with a 74.
Kinnie will be one of two individuals that Strudwick gets to take to Bristol for the event, the other being Maeve Cummins (Waringstown, Northern Ireland).
With a first round score of 71, Kinnie currently holds the lowest round score of any Eagles. She was the runner-up at the Bob Dibble Classic, losing on the first playoff hole to Katie Tomassoni. As for last year's King Invitational, her 154 total was enough got sixth on the leaderboard, 12-over par.
Cummins, on the other hand, moves from the travel team to open her season to an individual. She opened her freshman career with a +28 outing that pushed her to 66th. Her lowest score in the event was a 79 in the third round.
King University will host the event at the Country Club of Bristol which features a sprawling 6,474-yard course that holds a par of 71.
The Invitational opens on Monday with a single round of 18 holes on both days of competition. A full recap and results will follow both rounds.