GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The University of Arkansas opened the 2005-06 golf season with high expectations and lived up to their billing with a solid fall campaign. February began the spring season with six events heading up to the NCAA Championship hosted by Ohio State May 17-20.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: Arkansas recorded their best finish in school history at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic in Athens, Ga., in the team’s last outing. The Lady’Backs struggled on the opening day but rebounded with solid day two and three rounds working their way back into the top 10.
THIS WEEK: Arkansas travels to the Southeastern Conference Championship for the 11th time in program history since adding golf for the 1995-96 season. The Lady’Backs best finish came last year with a third-place team finish. Prior to that, Arkansas’ top place was fifth in 1999 when Auburn University hosted the championship.
LEWIS WINS IT ALL: Last year, in her first-ever SEC Championship, redshirt freshman Stacy Lewis won the individual title setting a championship course record and an Arkansas school record with a 214 (72-75-67) at Tunica National in Tunica, Miss. That win was the biggest individual title in school history.
THIS YEAR’S FIELD: This year, the field includes Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
ARKANSAS AGAINST THE FIELD: Arkansas has faced 10 of the 11 SEC opponents during the regular season this year and come away with a 12-6 record. The only SEC member Arkansas has not faced this year is LSU. In the fall, Arkansas was 7-2 with wins over Auburn, Vanderbilt, Florida (twice), Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Arkansas finished behind Georgia in two events last fall. This spring, Arkansas is 5-4 with wins over Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Arkansas has finished behind Florida, Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina, with three of those losses coming at the Liz Murphey last weekend.
THE SEC IS STRONG: The Southeastern Conference continues to be among the leaders for women’s golf and this year’s championship field is a tough one. Golfweek, one of the most commonly used collegiate polls, currently lists Georgia as the No. 4 team in the country and the highest ranked SEC team. Auburn is a close second, ranked No. 5, followed by No. 9 Arkansas, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 15 Vanderbilt, No. 16 Florida, No. 27 South Carolina, No. 32 LSU, No. 39 Alabama, No. 47 Mississippi State, No. 55 Kentucky and No. 83 Mississippi State.
SOME INTERESTING NUMBERS: Arkansas more than eclipsed its scoring goals last fall and the numbers continue to look good this spring. In the fall, Arkansas averaged a 294 in the first round, 297.25 in round two, and 291.5 in third round. The Lady’Backs averaged 882.75 for the fall.
This spring numbers are slightly higher against several courses that Arkansas is seeing for the first time. Arkansas is averaging 309.50 in the first round, 302.25 in round two and 305.00 in the third round. Arkansas’ third round average was hurt a bit by the highest round of the season – a 315 at Texas A&M.
ARKANSAS’ NUMBERS GOOD EARLY: The Lady Razorbacks have posted some impressive numbers early in the season. Arkansas’ 876 at their home Tyson/Embassy Suites Invitational was a program best and the first time the team has played under par for the tournament. The Lady’Backs single round 286 on the final day was also a program best. Arkansas carded an 882 at Las Vegas in another good showing.
WIN-LOSS: A win-loss record isn’t something we talk much about in golf but if we did, Arkansas would have an impressive 91-27-1 mark for a .7689 winning percentage this year. Arkansas is a very impressive 52-6-1 (.889) against teams in the Central Region this year. Arkansas is also 21-25-1 against the top 25.
THE STARTING FIVE: Kelley Hester’s traveling five should come as no surprise to those who follow Lady’Back golf. Making the trip to the 2006 SEC Championship is seniors Amanda McCurdy, Courtney Mahon and Lindsey Hinshaw along with sophomores Stacy Lewis and Ashley Medders.
ABOUT MCCURDY: Arkansas senior Amanda McCurdy has played in every event since joining the Lady’Backs as a freshman. This year, the El Dorado, Ark., native has competed in seven tournaments and played 24 rounds with a 74.25 stroke average. She has two wins under her belt (Mercedes and Puerto Rico) and two top five finishes this year. Her low round of the year was a 213 (Mercedes)- a mark that is also a school record. McCurdy is currently ranked No. 20 in the Golfweek individual poll and is the highest ranked Lady’Back in the poll. She ranks tied for 10th in the SEC, also the best for a Lady’Back.
ABOUT MAHON: Senior Courtney Mahon has also competed in all eight events and played 24 rounds this year. The Topeka, Kan., native has a 75.83 stroke average and three top 15 finishes including a second-place showing at the Tyson/Embassy Suites Invitational.
ABOUT LEWIS: Sophomore Stacy Lewis exploded onto the Arkansas golf scene winning last year’s SEC Championship individual title. She has also played in all eight events and has 24 competitive rounds under her belt this year. Lewis has a 74.42 stroke average and four top six finishes including a second-place showing at the Tyson/Embassy Suites Invitational.
ABOUT HINSHAW: Senior Lindsey Hinshaw has made the lineup in each event this year playing 24 rounds to date. Hinshaw has a 77.92 average this year and has consistently been around the 230 mark.
ABOUT MEDDERS: Sophomore Ashley Medders returns to the lineup for her first Southeastern Conference Championship appearance this week. Medders has played in six events winning the Tyson/Embassy Suites Invitational as an individual. She has a 76.78 stroke average this season.
ABOUT THE POLL: Arkansas is currently ranked ninth in this week’s Golfweek Top 50. The Lady’Backs were ranked as high as second early in the year which is the highest ranking in the Golfweek poll ever for the golf program. In addition, the golf team becomes the third-highest ranked women’s team at the University behind cross country and indoor track, both of whom have been No. 1.
YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY: Head coach Kelley Hester took over the Lady Razorback golf program in 2002-03. In the final poll prior to Hester taking over, the Lady Razorbacks were ranked 82nd in the Golfweek poll. Arkansas is ninth in that poll this week.
HESTER’S FIRST SENIOR CLASS: That’s right, head coach Kelley Hester has her first senior class at Arkansas. That class consists of Lindsey Hinshaw, Amanda McCurdy, Courtney Mahon and Sarah Trew.
NEWCOMER JOINS TEAM: Arkansas welcomed the addition of freshman Tanica van As to the roster at the semester. Van As just graduated from high school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and redshirt this season.