GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Riding a streak of five-consecutive top-five finishes, the University of Florida women’s golf team heads to the 2007 SEC Championship as the seventh-ranked team in the GolfStat NCAA head-to-head rating. The Lady Gators and the league’s other 11 teams will compete at the par-72, 6,147-yard Old Waverly Golf Club, where Mississippi State University will host the action.
“We’ve had a great spring, but that doesn’t take away from the need to work hard and focus as we head into the SEC Championship,” Florida head coach Jill Briles-Hinton said. “We need to work on perfecting our strengths and improving our weaknesses so that we can have success not only at the conference championship, but throughout the postseason.”
Briles-Hinton will be leading UF into the SEC Championship for the ninth time, having finished worse than sixth only once – in 1999, her inaugural year at the helm. Briles-Hinton has guided Florida to four top-five team finishes at the conference championship, while also overseeing Aimee Cho’s run to the individual medal in 2003.
The field at the SEC Championship will be one of the most challenging around, as seven of the league’s 12 teams are among the top-25 in GolfStat’s NCAA head-to-head rankings. The Lady Gators, No. 7 on that list, will square off with four teams in the GolfStat top-10 – No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Auburn, No. 5 Vanderbilt and No. 10 Tennessee – while also meeting up with No. 22 Alabama and No. 25 Arkansas. Heading into the conference championship, Florida owns a 16-7 season record against teams in the GolfStat NCAA head-to-head top-25.
“The key for us at the SEC Championship is to stay in the process and stay within ourselves,” Briles-Hinton said. “We’ll be playing some tough teams, and we’ll have to play well, but we can’t worry about the outcome when we’re out on the course. We need to take it one shot at a time.”
SEC Player of the Year candidate Sandra Gal (Leichlingen, Germany) will lead the Lady Gators’ lineup in West Point, heading to the championship with a team-best 72.4 stroke average. Gal earned her fourth SEC Player of the Week Honor after tying for first at the Bryan National Collegiate, shooting a one-under 215 that made her one of just two players at the tournament to post a red final number on the board. Gal has won her last 91 head-to-head meetings with SEC players, with her last loss coming on March 6. She is the fourth-ranked player, and highest-rated SEC representative, in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index with a power rating of 70.86.
“Sandra finished the regular season on a great note, beating some very talented competition at the Bryan National,” Briles-Hinton said. “She is on a roll right now as we head into the most important part of our season. I’m proud of her, and I’m happy to see her playing so well. She’s a dedicated, hard worker, and she deserves everything that comes to her.”
Junior Whitney Myers (East Berlin, Pa.) will play in the second spot for UF after turning in a top-10 finish at the Bryan National, while junior Tiffany Chudy (Miramar, Fla.) will play No. 3 for the Orange and Blue. Sophomore Mallory Blackwelder (Versailles, Ky.) and redshirt sophomore Ornella Jouven (La Ciotat, France) round out the UF lineup in the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
“Every player in our lineup is working hard on both their mental and physical games as we head into the postseason,” Briles-Hinton said. “Competition is only going to get more difficult from here, and we have to keep improving if we want to keep pace.”