NCAA South Regional lies ahead for Cummins

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JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 24/25 Carson-Newman will be represented in the 2019 NCAA Division II Women's Golf South Regional this week as Maeve Cummins (Waringstown, Northern Ireland) heads to Cleveland, Tenn. this week as the fifth-seeded individual in the three-day event that begins on Monday.

Her placement gives Carson-Newman a sixth individual in NCAA Championship action and the third in as many years with Elizabeth England playing in the tournament the past two season. She is the fifth Eagle to head to the regional since 2009.

"She really attached her record to Elizabeth's right from the word and wanted to match if not exceed what Elizabeth was able to accomplish here and absolutely she has done that," Carson-Newman coach Suzanne Strudwick said. "I think having a benchmark, a goal, something that you can, in your mind as an athlete, work towards or try to exceed is important, and Elizabeth certainly raised the bar in for the women's golf program here at Carson-Newman. To have Maeve that determined and match her discipline, practice, achievement and goals is fantastic and I'm really proud of her."

The South Atlantic Conference's Freshman of the Year and Tournament MVP is one of six individuals in the region. For each regional, the top-12 teams will play along with six individuals who are not on the teams included. From there, the top four teams and individuals not with a team in each regional tournament will garner a spot in the national championship that is set for May 14-18 at PGA National Resort and Spa in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Cummins has had a stellar debut year at Mossy Creek with two tournament victories. Her first win came at the King Invitational back in September where she became the third-straight Eagle to win the tournament and the first C-N freshman to win a tournament title since England did so back in 2015 at the Newberry/Carson-Newman duel.

Her second tournament win came at the SAC Tournament where she was three-over through the three rounds of action with a 219 total. That total is the third-best total scored at the tournament in SAC history. She became the third Eagle to win the tournament MVP crown in program history and the first since England in 2017. Her victory there also made her the third player in SAC history to win the individual title in the same year as becoming the conference's Freshman of the Year. The last one to do it was Wingate's Ashley Denton in 2008.

"I had this conversation with the girls at our second event when we played at Columbus State and Maeve was starting to separate herself there. I really said to her teammates, 'You're allowing a freshman to out-play you, out-smart you and out-practice you,'" Strudwick said. "As a coach, you have to be careful because you don't want to create division within a team but you also have to point out realities.

"I think it helped; I think the team understood where I was coming from. They stepped up as a team, but, unfortunately, we fell short in our bid to make it to regionals."

The 108th player in the nation according to Golfstat, Cummins heads to a regional that is loaded with talent with every team in the field ranked in the top 25 in two national polls including Barry, which is the top team in the nation in both the Golfstat and Women's Golf Coaches Association rankings. On the individual side, the top two players are in the top 20 of Golfstat's player rankings with Wingate's Warissa Paungcharoen and West Georgia's Franziska Bremm sitting at 16th and 18th, respectively.

Joining Cummins and Paungcharoen from the South Atlantic Conference in the individual list is third-seeded Lise Malherbe from Lincoln Memorial and fourth-seeded Abbey Hartsell from Lenoir-Rhyne.

Among the individuals, Cummins is just one of two freshmen in the field with the other being West Florida's Solange Gomez.

The tournament, hosted by Lee University, begins on Monday from the Cleveland Country Club in Cleveland, Tenn. Live scoring will be available for each round through Golfstat.