Alabama’s women’s golf team improved five strokes in the second round of the NCAA Regional Tournament in Athens, Ga., and the Crimson Tide has a five-stroke lead going to the final day of competition at the University of Georgia Golf Course.
No. 3-ranked Alabama was four-under-par on the 6,344-yard, par 72 course Tuesday and is now 3-under for the tournament. Baylor, one of two teams that made big jumps on Tuesday, is in second place at 2-over-par after the Bears improved by 14 strokes. Michigan State, the leader after the first round, lost four strokes to par Tuesday and is in third place at 5-over. Clemson also made a big jump, improving 22 strokes to move from 11th place to fourth at 10-over. Northwestern and Tennessee are tied for fifth at 12-over-par.
The top six teams in the regional will advance to the NCAA Championship Tournament May 19-24 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
Alabama is led by sophomore Lauren Stephenson, who had her second subpar round and who is in second place individually, a stroke behind Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest. Stephenson followed her opening 69 with a 70 Tuesday. Sophomore Cheyenne Knight also has had two under-par rounds, 71 both days, and is tied for sixth. Freshman Kristen Gillman came in 2-under-par Tuesday and is tied for ninth at 143 (73-70). Senior Mia Landegren is at 76-73—149 and junior Lakareber Abe (whose score did not count in Bama’s 284 total) is at 154 (80-74).
“We were very consistent and steady today,” Bama Coach Mic Potter said. “Having all five players in it all day was the key. Lauren, Kristen and Cheyenne all shot under par, and led us as they have all year. Mia and Lakareber also had solid performances. We came here with one goal in mind and that was to do everything we could to win the tournament. We now have a chance to do that.”
In addition to qualifying for its 13th NCAA tournament, and 12th in a row under Mic Potter, a win on Wednesday would give Alabama its third regional championship in the last seven seasons. The Crimson Tide previously won the East regionals in 2011 at Daytona Beach, Fla., and 2013 at Auburn.
Alabama will be paired with Baylor and Michigan State in Wednesday’s final round and will tee off beginning at 8:12 a.m. CDT.
Baylor’s big improvement came primarily from Fiona Liddell, who shot 68 after a 79 on Monday.
Clemson got a 10 stroke improvement (79 to 69) from Ana Paula Valdes, an 8-stroke jump (78-70) from Kennedy Swann, and a 7-shot gain (78-71) from Sydney Legacy.
Other Southeastern Conference teams in the Athens Regional are host Georgia (plus 16) in seventh and Auburn (plus 27) in a tie for 11th.
Play in the Columbus (Ohio) Regional is obviously quite difficult. Florida leads at 14-over-par. South Carolina is fourth at plus 22, Texas A&M seventh at plus 33, and Arkansas eighth at plus 34. Kentucky is 61 over par after two days in Columbus.
No SEC teams are in the regional tournaments at Albuquerque or Lubbock.