Strong Final Round Good Enough For Tigers

Browns Summit, N.C.--Following a second round struggle that left them on the outside looking in for a possible NCAA Championship berth, the Auburn women's golf team put together the best round of the day at three-under par Saturday to finish sixth in the 21-team field at the East Regional and easily qualify for the national championship tournament.

Auburn coach Kim Evans said she was pleased with her team's strong close to the three-day NCAA East Regional Tournament.

"We had a little bit of everything here," Evans tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We had a solid round (Thursday). The second day we had a bad round and the final day we had a great round.

"I wish the great round would have come yesterday where we wouldn't have backed ourselves into a hole and have gone after the golf tournament (title), but today our players did a really great job," the coach said.

Needing something positive after Friday's round during which no one could get anything going, Auburn came out strong on Saturday with Nicole Hage leading the charge. After back-to-back rounds of 78 the first two days, Hage was looking to help her team and she did just that with a round of 68 that included five birdies and just one bogey.

Steady as a rock, SEC Player of the Year and All-American Maria Martinez fired a final round 73 and finished the three days tied for 19th overall.

Maria Martinez, the SEC Player of the Year, putts at the regional in North Carolina.

Just ahead of her was teammate Jessica Lovell. Auburn's best golfer for the regional, Lovell fired a one-under par round of 71 on Saturday and finished at +2 and tied for 15th overall.

"Jessica had one of her best tournaments because this course will favor a golfer who hits a really straight, short shot," Evans said.

Abigale Schepperle also gave the Tigers a very good round when it mattered most as she followed up Friday's 78 with a 73 on Saturday and finished the three days at seven over par.

Rounding out Auburn's day on Saturday was Margaret Shirley's 75. Shirley's 10 over par total for three days left her in a tie for 63rd overall in the field.

Evans said she was excited to see Hage lead the charge on Saturday. "I think it was mind over matter for her. She didn't have a good ball-striking tournament. Nicole hits a very long tee shot, but this course favors accuracy and when you hit it that long it is hard to draw back. We worked on a couple of things yesterday and tried to figure it out. She worked on a few fixes and putted well today. It was mind over matter because she knew she had to get the job done."

Evans noted that she was also pleased with the performance of Schepperle and Lovell. "Jessica had a great tournament and Abigale played some great golf as well even though she let a few shots slip away. I was really pleased those two played so strong. Margarret, Nicole and Maria have been playing really strong the last few tournaments and it was good to see Jessica and Abigale do the same thing. I am really proud of them stepping up to bat.

"I am proud of the whole team and looking forward to seeing what we can do at nationals." The Tigers will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the national championship tournament May 23-26.

The top eight teams from three regionals advanced to the NCAA Championships to be held on the Scarlett Course on the campus of The Ohio State University. From the East Regional it was all SEC at the top with Tennessee the low medalist for the regional at even par for the three days. LSU was second at +6 with California (+10), Florida State (+14), Arizona State (+14), Wake Forest (+17) and Virginia (+23) rounding out the field. Alabama finished tied with Virginia and the two are currently in a playoff. North Carolina State finished two shots off the pace in 10th.

NCAA East Regional

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