VIDEO: Suzanne Strudwick Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the fourth-straight season, Carson-Newman takes the 35-minute drive to Sevierville, Tenn. to take part in Tennessee Tech's Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate from Sunday through Tuesday.
C-N has pieced together six-consecutive top 25 finishes, helping it to move into the top 25 in the most recent poll from the Women's Golf Coaches Association.
The Eagles will hit the links on the Highlands Course on one of their primary practice venues for the event hosted by the Division-I school. They have not seen a top-five finish in the tournament since taking fourth in 2017. Last year, they were sixth in the field at 85-over with a 937 total.
"Anytime that you can sleep in your own bed, just travel 25 minutes to the golf course, for them it will be like going back home and playing junior golf and that's always fun," Carson-Newman coach Suzanne Strudwick said. "That's going to be my talk with them, treat this like you were when you were a kid, you know and enjoy it. They tend to have more family and friends come out and support them which is nice.
"Although it's a D-I and it's what we strive for, to try to compete and beat, you know, teams that are at a higher level than us, it's a great challenge on our home turf. We've done great in the past and I'm looking for the same."
Leading the way for C-N this week is Reagan Kinnie (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), marking her second top-seeded spot on the year. The junior holds a 77.3 scoring average through 14 rounds of action this season. She takes the top spot this week after a fourth-place showing at the Lady Cougar Classic, shooting 13-over in the event.
In her two trips to the BNI, Kinnie has landed in the top 20 of the field just once thanks to a 19-over finish last year that tied her for 16th.
Maeve Cummins (Waringstown, Northern Ireland) makes her BNI debut as the No. 2 seed. Her 15-over outing in Columbus pushed her scoring average for the year to a team-best 76.8.
Coming into the event as the three-seed is Rachel Watts (Newport, Tenn.) playing in her third BNI. Her best finish at the event was 26th in 2017 when she shot a 29-over three-round total of 242. This season, the junior is shooting a 76.9 clip through 15 rounds.
Taylor Hayes (Lake Ozark, Mo.) returns to the starting lineup for the first time in two events, sitting at the No. 4 spot. Her last outing came at the battle at Hilton Head where she went 16-over to hold a share of 35th by the end of the event. The senior is shooting an even 78 this year, seeing 11 rounds of play on the links. This will be the sophomore's first appearance at the Intercollegiate.
In three previous showings at the Intercollegiate, Hayes has landed in the top 20 twice. Last year she tied for 22nd at 24-over with a 237 through three rounds.
Rounding out the starting lineup for the Orange and Blue is Jayla Sims (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.). This trips marks her first time back in an event for C-N since the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate where she was landed in a tie for 41st at 21-over. This season, she is shooting a 78.3 average.
Outside of the main team, Strudwick gets to take two individuals to the event this year.
Allie Fletcher (Cumming, Ga.) will make her third-straight appearance in the event, her first as an individual. She was 29-over last year to gain a portion of 35th on the leaderboard after tying for 20th a year prior. This season, the junior is averaging an 80.4 clip in five rounds, heading to just her third event of the year.
Also playing as an individual for a second-straight year in the event is Anna Davenport (Roswell, Ga.). Last year, she tied for 28th in the field with a 26-over score of 239. This event will be the fourth tournament she has played in with the main travel team, her first as an individual. She is shooting an average of 78.3
The field for the Intercollegiate is comprised of 13 teams with C-N, currently sitting at No. 26 in Golfstat's most recent ranking, being one of just three teams from the Division-II ranks. The other two are No. 23 Lee and No. 34 Missouri-St. Louis. In addition to Golfstat, Lee also sits at 22nd in the nation according to the WGCA. As for the remaining 10 schools represented, they all hail from Division-I.
"It's a competition within a competition," Strudwick said. "With Lee, who are in the top 15 in the country, and Missouri-St. Louis who, actually, we've overtaken now and they were, they have been a top-10 team in the country, for us to have overtaken them in the national rankings now and be ahead of them is a big coup for us.
"We're hoping that home turf advantage and if we beat both of them, it will really solidify where we are as a team going into our last event so I'm hopeful."
All of the teams in the top three of last year's Intercollegiate return this season. Jacksonville State defends its title after going 50-over a year ago. Marshall was second with a 913 while hosting Tennessee Tech was third holding a 921.
The tournament begins on Sunday morning with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. A full recap with results will be posted at the conclusion of each round.