Lady Reb golf team experiencing success

The Ole Miss women's golf team takes a renewed confidence to Knoxville this weekend after winning the last tournament it entered.

The entire program was lifted with the victory, since it was the first time since 2004 the Lady Rebels had won a golf tournament.

In only her second year, head coach Michele Drinkard has taken the program to heights not seen in quite some time. Assisted this year by first-year UM coach Alexis Rather, the duo has the players believing they can win.

"It's all about preparation," said Drinkard, who led the Birmingham Southern golf program before coming to Oxford last year. "We have set a goal to prepare hard at home and practice with a purpose. The girls are responding. Their swings are improving. Practices go by fast and we get a lot done. So when we get to a tournament, they just relax and play."

They certainly appeared to do that at Missouri, the scene of their recent triumph at the Johnie Imes Invitational. The Lady Rebels finished with a 300-299-301--900 to edge Arkansas-Little Rock (902) and host Missouri (902) by two shots.

Senior Dori Carter was runner-up in the individual standings behind Missouri's Julia Potter. The Valdosta, Ga., native carded a 72-69-72--213 to earn her seventh career top-five collegiate finish. She was the only player in the field to post two eagles during the tournament, doing so on the par-5 ninth hole in rounds two and three.

Junior Sara Grantham tied for 10th with a 76-75-74--225. It marked her fourth career top 10 finish. Sophomore Jillian Brodd shot 75-79-74--228, to tie for 14th and record her first career top 20 finish.

Freshman Ashley Lance, competing in her first tournament for the Lady Rebels, shot 77-76-82--235, and freshman Haley Millsap totaled a 79-79-81--239.

This weekend (Oct. 10-12) the Lady Rebs play at Tennessee in the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Knoxville.

Drinkard believes the approach of mental preparation as much as physical preparation is an important factor in the program's new-found success.

"Just staying positive, taking it one shot at a time, and just believing are the keys," she said.

Year two is normally better than year one for a program, and that's the case with the Lady Rebels, according to Drinkard.

"We have some newcomers, but we basically have the same team as last year," she said. "They're more comfortable with me and the way we're doing things. They're now committed and they can see the success. Dori becoming an All-American, and now winning our first tournament as a team, they see hard work does pay off and it's addictive. You just want to do more of it and get better and better and compete. The enthusiasm and energy is there when you have success."

In the spring, Ole Miss will host its own tournament, the Lady Rebel Intercollegiate, a revival of a tournament the program hosted several years ago.

"It's April 3-5 and we're having a College-Am on the afternoon of April 2," she said. "We hope to have a whole lot of people out here for the College-Am to play with the Rebels. We'll have 15 college teams in the tournament, and we're excited about hosting. It's great for the program. We get a chance to show off our facilities and our campus. It will be a lot of fun."

Drinkard said assistant coach Rather has been a real plus for the program this school year.

"She is awesome. What she's brought to the team with her experience as a player and a leader has really helped," Drinkard said of the Tupelo native and former LSU golfer. "I'll start to ask her to do something, and she's already done it."

The Ole Miss Golf Course re-opened last week after an extensive renovation, and Drinkard says that's great for everyone involved in golf in the area. Her team is no exception.

"The bottom line is it's all about taking it to the course, playing a round of golf and posting a score," she said. "Having the course re-opened, having this really great facility, helps us to improve a lot. It helps in recruiting. It helps us to prepare fully. Now we can go out to the course and hit the shots we're practicing and see the results."

So far this fall, the results have been quite good for Lady Rebel golf.

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