OXFORD, Miss. - Head coach Michele Drinkard has worked hard to put the Ole Miss women's golf team back in the national spotlight since taking over the program, and they are headed there, earning a bid to the NCAA East Regional in Gainesville, Fla. The East Regional will be played May 7-9 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course on the University of Florida campus.
This marks the fifth NCAA Regional appearance for the Rebels, who earned bids in consecutive years in 1998 and 1999 and again in 2003 and 2004. It also marks the third trip for Coach Drinkard as a head coach, as she took Birmingham Southern to the NCAA East Regional and the NCAA Central Regional during her four years.
"We hit a goal, and we are really excited to go," Drinkard said. "They've (team) had a goal all year of making it to NCAAs, and they've done it. But we've reached a lot of goals this year by winning the Chancellor's Cup and winning a tournament. It's all about the process. If you work on the process and only think about the process, the outcome will take care of itself. That's what happened."
The Rebels are currently ranked No. 38 in the nation and recently enjoyed their best finish (seventh) at the SEC Championship since 1999. Ole Miss owns five top-five finishes, including capturing the Johnie Imes Invitational for their first tournament title since 2004. The Rebels earned runner-up at their own tournament, the Rebel Intercollegiate, and took fifth at the Mercedes Benz, The Derby and the Kiawah Island Intercollegiate.
Senior Dori Carter leads the team, earning All-SEC first team honors for the second year in a row. She qualified for the NCAA East Regional last year as an individual and is thrilled the entire team will be going this year.
"I am so excited and so proud of the team. I can't wait to go. It's going to be so much fun. Last year was very different, because I am not used to being out there by myself. This year is going to be great. We are going to play well. We love that golf course. I am so glad we are in Gainesville."
Third-year member Sara Grantham talked about seeing Carter go last year and wanting to join her this year.
"We've worked really hard this year," Grantham said. It's been different because we've had a plan. We set our goals at the beginning of the year, and we stuck to the plan. Everybody has exceeded their goals individually and as a team. Last year we watched Dori go, and we were happy for her, but now we are all very excited to go as a team."
The SEC, arguably the nation's best conference, led the country with 11 teams qualifying for NCAA Regionals. Joining Ole Miss in the East Regional are Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Kentucky made the Central Regional, and LSU and Arkansas are in the West Regional.
The Rebels are quite familiar with the teams in the East Regional as well as the Mark Bostick Golf Course having finished fourth in Florida's tournament last year.
"We are familiar with a lot of the teams, and we also already beat a lot of them (this year)," Drinkard said. "I know we can go down there and compete. It's all about the process. This week we are taking care of the process, working hard and trying to create shots.
"We figured we were probably going to Florida. We've played very well there last year, and we went back to what we needed to do for that golf course. It's a Donald Ross style like Pinehurst, where if you run off the green you have hard short-game shots. Our goal is to hit middle of the greens to have easier short-game shots.
"All of them (the players) have actually played it. They've hosted a lot of junior tournaments there, even Haley has played it as a junior. Ashley played it awhile back, Dori's played it a lot, Sara's played it and Jill played it last year during the tournament. So we've got plenty of experience there."
In addition to the experience of having Carter play in the East Regional last year, the Rebels can rely on the experiences of assistant coach Alexis Rather, who helped LSU to the NCAA Championships twice in her career. In fact she chipped in for birdie from off the green on the first playoff hole to give the Tigers the final qualifying spot in the NCAA Central Regional last year.
"The main thing I told them last week was that there will be a little anxiety, because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said. I told them to soak in the moment. Not only is this a great opportunity for us, but it's a reward for their great play this year. I want them to enjoy the experience. Yes we want to finish top eight and advance, but you're going to get there quicker if you have a good time and enjoy the experience."
The top eight teams and two individuals from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championship May 19-22 at Caves Valley Golf Course in Owings Mill, Md.
Razorback women's golf goes to West Regional
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The 16th-ranked University of Arkansas women's golf team has been selected to participate in the 2009 NCAA West Regional Championship, the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Committee announced today.
Three regional tournaments (East, West and Central) take place May 7-9, with the top eight teams from each site advancing to the NCAA Championships at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, M.D.
The 2009 NCAA West Regional takes place at the ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz., with Arizona State serving as this year's host. The other sites are Gainesville, Fla., where the University of Florida hosts the East Regional, and the Scarlet Golf Course with Ohio State hosting in Columbus, Ohio.
"I'm actually really pleased with our selection to the West Regional," said Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. "I feel very good about it, and I think it's a good fit for our golf team. I would think we'd be pretty much guaranteed some good weather. I've never played Karsten where this will be held but I've heard great things about the course and facilities. It's open off the tee and sets up well for us. We're going to go out with mindset to win the West Region and give ourselves some good momentum heading into the NCAA Championship."