CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern opens its fall season with a stern test at one of the nation's top courses Monday and Tuesday at The Ocean Course Invitational. Hosted by College of Charleston, the 54-hole event features six ACC and five SEC programs.
Field (16 Teams): Boston College, Charleston Southern, College of Charleston, Elon, Florida, Florida State, Maryland, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida, Tennessee, UCF, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest
Course: The Ocean Course – Kiawah Island, S.C. – Par 73 – 6,109 yards
Live Scoring: www.Golfstat.com
Tee Times: Monday's First Round – 8:15 a.m. (Shotgun Start – 36 holes of continuous play)
Tuesday's Final Round – 8:30 a.m. (Shotgun Start)
Led by head coach Matt Cram-Smith and returning All-Big South Conference honoree Hayley McNeill, the Bucs are looking to continue the upward trajectory that has seen CSU set the program scoring average record each of the last three seasons. This week's tournament is the first of five events on the fall schedule.
"It's always the toughest tournament of the year and it's always the best field," Cram-Smith said of the Bucs' opener. "We get off to a good start here and we can really set up our ranking for the whole fall. We get the advantage of being somewhat locals. We know the wind at Kiawah, the conditions and the speed of the greens. The short game will be extremely important if we can have a good showing."
McNeill headlines returners
McNeill emerged as CSU's top player last spring, and should hold down the top spot in the lineup this year. She ranked fourth in the Big South with a 74.81 scoring average last season on her way to recording four top-ten finishes.
The Australian's consistency was impressive in the spring, as she finished in the top-ten in three of six events. She highlighted that run by setting CSU's 54-hole scoring record (4-under par 212) at February's Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic. Cram-Smith expects to see more of the same in McNeill's final campaign.
"She's been working on her game all summer, back in Australia, and her putting looks fantastic," Cram-Smith said. "Hayley's a competitor. She's matured every year, gotten a little bit better every year and I know we're hoping for great things in her last season."
Flink and Ohara also back for senior year
Seniors Emelie Flink and Milleina Ohara also figure to be staples in CSU's lineup this year. Their consistency will be important to the Bucs' chances following the graduation of Shelby Thompson and Bella Johnson-Schmitz.
Flink is CSU's longest hitter off the tee, and is seeking better consistency to take advantage of that power. Ohara is a steady player that has been a reliable option for Cram-Smith in the past.
"When Hayley can hit the driver well, she's got short irons into every hole and that's a huge advantage for her," Cram-Smith said. "Her short game is really solid and her putting is good. We've been working with her swing and I really expect her to show what she can do this year."
Newcomers will make an impact
Freshmen Daniela Intriago and Xus Boria, along with junior Andriel Aimua, will look to contribute immediately as part of CSU's rotation. Intriago and Aimua earned the start in this week's opener thanks to their performance in qualifying rounds.
Aimua comes to the Bucs after playing two seasons at Concordia University in Minnesota. Intriago hails from Ecuador, and Boria arrives at CSU from Spain.
"They're all very close right now," Cram-Smith said. "Andriel's got a lot of power and is a good bit longer than the other two. They all showed potential in qualifying and I'm looking forward to see what they can bring to our team."