No. 3 Tigers Hope To Shine At Sunriver

Bend, Ore.--Coach Kim Evans and her Auburn University golf team hopes to continue its hot streak as the Tigers begin play on Tuesday at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships.

The Tigers come into the nationals following victories at the SEC Championship in Tunica, Miss., and the NCAA Regional in Lubbock, Tex.

Senior Diana Ramage, a seven-stroke winner of the tournament in Texas for her third individual title of the season, says she is excited about her final collegiate match before she turns pro in June. "We have a lot of momentum going into the NCAAs and we are excited about seeing what we can do. It is a beautiful place to play and it is a tough course so we will have to play well to have a chance to win."

The All-SEC senior and her teammates hope to play better on the par 71, 6,300-yard Meadows Course than they did when they competed at the NCAA Preview event there in September. Duke won that tournament with an 858 total. Auburn finished fifth in a 21-team field with an 869 total behind Washington, Oklahoma State and Arizona State.

The Tigers go into the four-day event ranked third nationally. Junior Maria Martinez, who hit the key putt to win the SEC Tournament in a playoff, will be counted on to go low.

Maria Martinez

The rest of the lineup is a young one with sophomore Nicole Hage joining freshmen Margaret Shirley and Abigale Schepperle. Schepperle, a former state high school champion at Hoover High, replaces sophomore Jessica Lovell, who was in the lineup for the SEC and regional tournaments.

Evans says that there is no clear-cut favorite in this year's tournament and notes that it is important to play well early in the event. "We're pretty excited," says Evans. "It's nice to be playing with the higher seeds. Our tee times are important with us being able to tee off in the afternoon the first day with the higher seeds than tee off in the morning on the second day also with the higher seeds. Afternoon winds can make things crazy, while morning winds and cold temperatures can make things crazy as well. It's important where we are teeing off and that we're going with the highest seeds possible."

Sunriver resort, located just down the road from snow-covered Mt. Bachelor, will be a chilly and damp place for golf this week with a chance of rain each day and temperatures ranging from the high 30s to low low 60s along with windy conditions.

Auburn handled extremely windy conditions to win the regional in Lubbock, Tex., but didn't have to deal with cool temperatures.

"We had a really good last round earlier this season," Evans says of her team's fall trip to Sunriver. "The course is going to play shorter than most National Championship courses. The greens are small with a lot of different breaks, and they usually tuck the pins in tough places. I think the short game is going to make a big difference straight off the tee."

Tournament scoring is available at golfstat.com.

Ramage says she likes to compete on a challenging course. "I think our team plays its best golf on the tougher courses," she says.


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