Even though the regional will be held on Auburn's home course, a place where the Tigers won the SEC Championship in 2011, this event will be different for the Auburn golfers because they are being coached by a fellow student. With Evans having surgery to treat ovarian cancer and unable to attend the event, former Tiger All-American player Danielle Downey, who has been helping the team as a student assistant coach, is in charge this week.
Kim Evans (left) and former Tiger All-American Cydney Clanton are shown at a celebration of the Tigers' 2009 SEC Championship, one of seven SEC titles Auburn has won with Evans as head coach.
The 14th-seed in the field, the Tigers are one of six SEC teams playing in Auburn this week with #2 Alabama the top seed in the field. Fifth-ranked Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ole Miss are the other SEC teams in the field with #8 UCLA, #11 North Carolina, #12 Virginia, #18 Oklahoma State, #20 Tulane and #23 Texas part of the strong group of teams as well.
Facing a tough field and tough circumstances with Evans not with them this week, senior Carlie Yadloczky notes that it's up to the team to rally the troops and win one for their coach this week. Auburn's most experienced player, Yadloczky points out the Tigers have a great opportunity to finish the season positively and advance to the NCAA Championships at the University of Georgia.
"It will definitely be different to look back behind me and not see Coach Evans there watching," Yadloczkys says. "But, she is doing what is best for her and that is what is most important. We just have to go out and play our best to bring the championship home.
"We are playing at home, we've been playing well and everyone is loose and comfortable," says Yadloczky, whose team has gotten a boost from the return to action by Victoria Trapani, who took a leave of absence from competition while helping care for her mother. "I'm excited to get back on the course and play," Yadloczky adds.
Trapani, who finished sixth individually at the SEC Championship, predicts the Tigers will be ready to give a good effort at the regional. "Everything has been going smooth," the sophomore says. "We had a little downfall when we learned of Coach's bad news, but we are mature. We are all preparing for what we have to do individually and team-wise. It is looking good."
Without Evans to guide them, the team will turn to Downey, the team's lone remaining coach after Margaret Shirley left in February to take another job.
Earning All-SEC and All-American honors during her career from 1999-2003, Downey says this week is all about playing golf because the work has been done. Now it's just time to turn it loose and see what happens.
Danielle Downey is shown as a player for the Tigers.
"The girls are playing their own course and they know it like the back of their hand," Downey says. "I just need to make sure I have enough water and food on the golf cart and get ready to clap all the way around and be their biggest cheerleader.
"I have learned a lot from Coach and her style and how the girls respond," Downey adds. "We just want to go have fun and play our golf course."
The top eight teams plus the top two individuals will advance from each of the three regional sites to the University of Georgia Golf Course for the championship finals to be held May 21-24.