April 18, 2010
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Alabama women's golf team captured the program's first Southeastern Conference Championship on Sunday afternoon at the par-71, 6,057-yard NorthRiver Yacht Club.
The Crimson Tide surged to the top of the leaderboard over the final nine holes on Sunday to edge Vanderbilt by four strokes. UA finished at 4-under-par 848 while the Commodores closed at even-par 852. Arkansas was third at 7-over 859 with Georgia fourth (+8, 860) and Auburn (+9, 861) was fifth.
"It's one of, if not the best golf conference in the county, and to be the champion of it is a tremendous honor," Alabama head coach Mic Potter said following Sunday's win. "The SEC Championships are big to us, big to our athletic department and it's a goal that our team has had all year. It's a goal accomplished. We've got to enjoy it for a day or two and then get ready for regionals."
For Potter, who is in his fifth year at Alabama, the win was a huge step for his program that has advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of the past four years, but had never won and SEC Championship. The Tide had finished runner-up three times, including a tie for second last season, but the SEC title had proven elusive.
"I am ecstatic to be able to say that I'm a part of this team and program to pull through a SEC Championship," Alabama sophomore Brooke Pancake said. "It's somewhat of a breakthrough for us. We know that we have this immense potential and this is kind of our breaking point, and it's only up from here. We're very excited, it feels good.
"We're all very competitive, and we know there is a lot of talent in this program. (Coach Potter) just wants it that much more for us, so I'm sure he has been just so tense all day and now finally be able to say it's over and we're the champions."
Alabama's 4-under-par 848 was a 54-hole school record by both strokes and in relation to par. The Tide set the school record for single-round scoring in Saturday's second round with a 6-under-278. On Sunday, UA shot 1-under-par 283.
The Crimson Tide had fallen behind Vanderbilt midway through Sunday's final round, but for the third time in as many rounds this weekend, Alabama closed strong to overtake the Commodores.
"We made some pars there," Potter said of the Tide's play over the final three holes. "I guess we just needed to stay patient and let our opponents make the mistakes, which we did."
Vanderbilt's Marina Alex captured medalist honors after a two-hole playoff with Tennessee's Erica Popson. Both Alex and Popson finished at 5-under-par 208. Popson followed her second round 67 with a 68 on Sunday while Alex shot 1-over-par 72 in the final round.
Pancake, a sophomore from Chattanooga, Tenn., paced the Crimson Tide attack with a 2-under-par 211 to finish tied for fifth. She went in 1-over-par 37 on the front nine but made back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes. Pancake made bogey on No. 15 but carded three solid pars on the final three holes to help seal the win.
Senior Helena Blomberg turned in another outstanding round of golf and produced the best 54-hole tournament of her career. The native of Uppsala, Sweden, finished tied for seventh at 1-under-par 212, setting a career-low by five strokes. She got off to a 3-over-par start with a double-bogey on No. 3 and a bogey on No. 5, but played the final 13 holes at 5-under-par with six birdies and just one bogey to finish with a 69.
True freshman Jennifer Kirby came through with Alabama's low round on Sunday with a 3-under-par 68 and finished tied for 10th at even-par 213. She made bogey on No. 4 but birdied No. 9 to make the turn at even par. Kirby then sank a 50-foot eagle putt from the front of the green on No. 10 and followed that with a birdie on the 12th before recording six straight pars down the stretch.
Junior Camilla Lennarth fought through her toughest round of the tournament to come up big for the Tide at the end. She struggled through the middle of her round but birdied the 13th hole and made par on each of the final three holes to close out the win for the Tide. Lennarth finished tied for 16th overall at 2-over-par 215 after a 75 on Sunday.
Senior Rhea Nair, who was clutch for Alabama with a 1-over-par 72 on Saturday, finished tied for 44th at 14-over-par 227.
Next up for the Crimson Tide will be the NCAA Regionals on May 6-8 at a site that is still to be determined.