Young and Talented Tigers Ready For NCAA Play

Auburn is one of 10 ranked teams in the 21-team NCAA East Regional field.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a runnerup finish at the SEC Women's Golf Championship, the Auburn women's team begins NCAA play this weekend at the East Regional hoping to keep its season alive to have a chance to play at the nationals on its home course.

With competition at the par-72, 6,165-yard El Campeon Course at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., the regional features 21 teams vying for eight spots into the 24-team NCAA Championship field May 18-21 at the Grand National Lake Course in Opelika.

The Tigers are ranked seventh nationally by GolfWorld and ninth by Golfweek/Sagarin. The Tigers are led by two-time All-SEC performer Maria Martinez. The sophomore will play in the number one spot for Auburn and is backed up by a very capable supporting cast. Topping that is freshman Nicole Hage. The co-SEC player of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year, Hage leads the league in stroke average at 73.51 and should give Auburn a solid one-two punch at the top of the lineup.

Rounding out Auburn's roster for the weekend are sophomore Leah Hart at number three, junior Kingsley Barrett at number four and sophomore Jennifer Head at number five. Coach Kim Evans said that the challenge this weekend will be a tough one for her team, but that's what it's all about this time of the year as Auburn shoots for its ninth consecutive trip to the nationals and 11th in school history.

"We're the number two seed and we have a good pairing with Duke and Oklahoma State the first two days," Evans said. "There's really no expectations other than to just try and win the golf tournament. We're just going to take it day-by-day. We feel comfortable and we're ready to go."

Duke enters the weekend as the number one team in the country and the defending national champion. Led by All-American Virada Nirapathpongporn, the Blue Devils won the ACC title for the ninth-straight year. The win was the ninth of the year for Duke and the Blue Devils enter the weekend as the consensus number one team in the country.

The rest of the field is comprised of Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, UNLV, Florida, North Carolina, Tulane, LSU, Tennessee, Furman, South Carolina, Florida State, Ole Miss, UNC-Wilmington, Alabama, Miami, North Carolina State, Campbell, Saint Francis and Southern.

"It's a tough course, but it's a good, solid championship course," Evans says of the El Campeon layout. "With that in mind we feel like the best teams will advance out there."

On Wednesday the Tigers will play a practice round and on Thursday's they will start the tournament. The three-round event can be followed with live scoring available at www.golfstat.com.


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