For the second consecutive season, the Mississippi State women's golf team earned a place in the NCAA Central Regional, the program's first consecutive regional appearances since the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The Bulldogs are headed to Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as the 11th seed to tee off on May 8-10. The top 8 teams of each of the three NCAA regionals will earn a place in the NCAA Championships on May 20-23 at Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Gene's Page talked one-on-one with head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm about the upcoming regional.
Do you feel that your team is now starting to get the respect that they deserve?
"The climate has changed much to my enjoyment. I point out every time that I can that they getting more respect. I tell them that they did this, they earned the respect from other programs through their time on the golf course, their competitive spirit as well as their ranking. But due to their body of work they have gotten invitations to some of the top events in the nation next year."
You have taken great steps with your program. First you got to a regional, now you are going to your second regional in a row and you expected to earn a bid. Talk about the steps you are taking with this program.
"Playing as well as we did this year, if you are in the top-40 you are going to a regional. We have been ranked around 30th all year and sometimes ranked as high as 25. Your fall pretty much tells you who will go and who won't because you fall is usually your strongest.
"As we improve each year, our expectations go up. The SEC championship is very important but being in such a strong conference it is just another golf tournament. While I want to win it and that is a goal of ours, it's not critical for us to move into a regional and into the national championship. Last year, 13 of the 14 SEC programs went to a regional. This year, 12 of the programs are going to regionals. That is great because I want to be in the fire. That is the only way you know where your skills are deficient. At the end of the day you want to see how your great rounds compare to the great rounds from other SEC and national championship programs. Then, as a coach, I want to make sure I challenge my program to get better in areas that are deficient."
Six of the nine girls on your roster are either freshmen or sophomores. And you are going to your second regional in a row. The future of MSU women's golf is extremely bright, isn't it?
"I am very excited. It takes four to six years to turn a program around. For us to be on track is very exciting. I can tell you that (MSU assistant) Coach (Leigh) Phillips and I love what we do. And I think our passion comes through to the girls. Our recruiting is critical because you can't develop a player once they get here. You can fine tune them, make them mentally stronger and help them have course management skills. But they still have to have the (talent) before they get here. So, for us to be among the top 10% in women's golf opens up a lot more doors for us recruiting all over the world."
Talk a little about your two true freshmen who have played a lot this season, Jessica Peng and Ji Eun Baik.
"Jessica Peng has played, as an amateur, in some Chinese LPGA events. She has played at the highest level and has the experience that has helped her as a freshman. Ji Eun, the other freshman who has been so critical to our success this year, played as a US junior in the AJGA, which is the best level of junior golf. Due to that they are seasoned. I looked forward to watching them in the future."
While you have some very talented freshmen and sophomores, you also have some very, very talented upperclassmen. How much does it help the young girls to have such great upperclassmen leaders?
"It helps a lot. And it's what you hope happens. They are the anchor."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.