Spring-opener sends Eagles to Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate

Spring-opener sends Eagles to Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate

VIDEO: Suzanne Strudwick Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – After a fall slate that saw Carson-Newman bring in three-consecutive top three performances, the women's golf team looks to stay strong with a trip to Saint Augustine, Fla. for the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate on Monday and Tuesday at the Golf Club at South Hampton.

A top-three finish at the event would give C-N its longest streak of top three results in program history. It has recorded three just two times before this season – fall of 2015 and spring of 2010.

"It talks to the depth of the team that we've never had before," Carson-Newman coach Suzanne Strudwick said. "Out of the 12 girls on the two, two are out -- one is redshirting, one is injured – so that's 10 players. Between six and 10 position, it's very, very close. It's very close. The only thing that is separating them right now is experience of playing in tournaments.

"When you have that level of depth in a team and the only thing separating them is experience. That shows up in our five players that actually go, six players that go. So, yeah, I think we can keep what we did in the fall, keep rolling on and just get better and better."

This is the second-straight year that the Eagles are competing in the event hosted by fellow South Atlantic Conference member Lincoln Memorial. Last year, the event was the second of the spring for the Eagles.

In last year's Kickoff, C-N garnered an eighth-place finish at 64-over through two rounds of play with Taylor Hayes (Lake Ozark, Mo.) leading the Orange and Blue in a tie for 20th at 14-over.

Also returning to the event alongside Hayes are Reagan Kinnie (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Jayla Sims (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) and Rachel Watts (Newport, Tenn.).

Watts will be relied upon to lead the way for the Eagles at the No. 1 spot for the first time this season. Through nine rounds of play, she has compiled a 75.6 stroke average. Last year, she finished in a tie for 33rd with teammates Sims and Matilda Frovenholt (Öjersjö, Sweden) at +20 with a 162 total.

Maeve Cummins (Waringstown, Northern Ireland) will serve as the second-seed for Strudwick's group. The freshman has made waves during her first year in Mossy Creek with three appearances on the travel team and a tournament win at the King Invitational where she participated as an individual.

Hayes returns to the Intercollegiate at the three-spot, marking the second time this season she has been the No. 3 for C-N. She holds a 75.9 stroke average on the year, heading into the final semester of her senior season.

At the No. 4 spot is Sims who served as the leader of the group for the first three events of the 2018-19 campaign. The sophomore notched a 77.3 scoring average through the first half of the season with her best round of golf coming in the first event of the year at the UINDY Fall Invitational with a 72 in the first round.

Rounding out the team for Carson-Newman at the No. 5 spot is Kinnie. The junior looks to improve from where she left off in the fall with a share of 42nd at the Jeckyll-O-Lantern Intercollegiate with an 18-over total of 162. She still holds the best round of play of all Eagles this season with a 71 at the Bob Dibble Classic back in September.

Joining Carson-Newman and host team Lincoln Memorial in the 12-team field are five other teams from the South Atlantic Conference including Newberry, Tusculum, Queens and Coker. Two nationally ranked squads appear in the event in No. 13 Lynn and No. 20 Wingate while Carson-Newman sits at 39th nationally in the last Golfstat poll that was released in November.

"I feel as though we are a much higher ranked team than we actually show and that we need to step up and play to that," Strudwick said. "That's going to be my talk to the girls that even though it says on paper that we're 39th, we actually need to play to a top 20 team and show what actually we are capable of doing."

So far this season, teams in the tournament have accounted for 22 top five finishes in the events they have competed in with just four wins, all of those coming from SAC schools. Newberry and Carson-Newman grabbed an event title each in the fall while Tusculum brought in two.

The two-day event tees-off on Monday morning for the first of two rounds that participants will play in. Live scoring will be provided through BirdieFire. A full recap with results will follow the conclusion of each day on cneagles.com.