No. 1 Tigers Looking For First National Title

Auburn, Wash.--The Auburn women's golf team will shoot for the university's second national title of 2002. The top-ranked Tigers will try to follow up on the success of the national champion women's swimmers, who won the university's first women's NCAA title back in March.

The Tigers will begin their pursuit of the title on Tuesday at the par 72, 6,273-yard Washington National Golf Course. The Tigers have already won an event there, taking the NCAA Fall Preview in September. They won in a playoff against Texas in an event that was shortened to two rounds due to rain.

For the past seven years, Auburn has made the cut to compete in the NCAA Women's Golf Championships. With exception of last year's team, none of those squads was considered a serious contender for the big prize, but for a second year in a row the Tigers are being given a legitimate shot at winning the national title. Last year the Tigers finished fourth at the NCAA tournament that was held at Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

With a No. 1 ranking and a strong regular season to boost the team's confidence, Coach Kim Evans' squad will try to put together four strong rounds beginning on Tuesday. The weather forecast for the four days of competition is for temperatures in the 60s during the day with no heavy rain forecast although there could be some light mists during the four rounds.

In their previous 11 tournaments this season, Auburn has won four and finished second in the others. The Tigers finished second at the NCAA East Regional May 9-11 in Baton Rouge, La., in their last event and were second at the SEC Championships, too.

"This has been our goal all year, and that is to make it to nationals and give it a shot," Evans says of competing in the NCAA Championship. "I know that we haven't played as strong as we would have liked to play in the spring, but I see that we are real close. Courtney (Swaim) and Celeste (Troche) are really on and I think that Danielle (Downey) and Diana (Ramage) and Kingsley (Barrett) are going to pick up their level."

Danielle Downey's totals have counted in the team scoring in 25 of her 27 competitive rounds this season.

Troche has been the top performer this season and is playing her best golf of the season. The junior All-American is averaging 73.16 strokes per round, which is seventh nationally. Swaim is a strong number two, averaging 73.66 strokes per round as a senior. Troche has shot six consecutive competition rounds of par or better while Swaim is just behind with five-in-a-row.

The best four scores in each round count for the team total. Evans is looking for the three, four and five players to step forward and perform better than they did down the stretch so the team doesn't have to count any high scores. Ramage, a sophomore who has a 74.75 average, is playing in the No. 3 position ahead of junior Downey, who had a better average at 73.88 strokes per round. AU's fifth and final competitor, freshman Barrett, is averaging 76.21 shots per 18 holes.

The Tigers have been nothing short of consistent, racking up a record of 145-6-1 this season. If the trend continues, they are assured of their best finish ever at the NCAA Tournament, which was a fourth place a year ago.

Auburn Golf Notes: The Tigers' seven straight NCAA Championship appearances is tied for the fourth longest current streak among all Division I teams in the country...The Tigers arrived in Washington in time for practice rounds on Sunday and Monday...The Tigers will tee off at 3:10 CDT (1:10 p.m. PDT) on Tuesday along with Texas and Pepperdine. The same three teams will play together on Wednesday with a morning tee time (10:50 CDT)...Auburn has a 60-6-1 record vs. the other teams in the NCAA field...Troche's hot streak started after she switched from conservative Titleist head irons to Callaway irons. Evans says that the junior has progressed from being the shortest hitter on the team with her irons to the longest hitter.

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