Women’s golf finishes in second at SEC Championships

WEST POINT, Miss. * A final-round 290 (+8), the second-lowest round of the day, propelled the seventh-ranked University of Florida women’s golf team to a second-place finish at the 2007 Southeastern Conference Championship, while junior Whitney Myers (East Berlin, Pa.) posted a two-under 70 on Sunday to claim sole possession of fourth place.

The Lady Gators finished with a team total of 881 (+17), ranking behind only tournament-winner Georgia, who totaled a one-over 865 for the weekend.

The Lady Gators’ score of 290 on Sunday marked their lowest at the conference championship since shooting an identical number in the second round of the 2004 tournament, and also tied for the 13th-best single-round score in school history. The runner-up showing tied the 2002-03 squad for the best SEC Championship finish in head coach Jill Briles-Hinton’s nine-year tenure.

“Our team knew that we had to come out today and get the job done, and they put together four solid scores to move themselves up the leader board,” Briles-Hinton said. “Georgia didn’t help us out at all, but the flipside is that we didn’t help anyone else out. Our players came out with a businesslike attitude and closed the door on the competition. It’s a great feeling when you beat some of the tremendous teams that were in the field this weekend.”

Myers, who matched her season best and recorded her second-straight round below par with Sunday’s two-under showing, rolled in four of her five birdies on the day during a spotless front nine. She bogeyed three holes on the back half, but battled back to notch a two on the par-three 17th, and entered the clubhouse with an even-par total of 216 (75-71-70) that equaled her career best. The final-round 70 was Myers’ fourth round at par or better on the season, and her third in the Lady Gators’ last two tournaments. She moved five spots up the leaderboard on Sunday courtesy of one of the day’s three rounds in red numbers, and left West Point as one of just four players to shoot par or better at the tournament. Myers’s finish added to a postseason resume that already included a runner-up finish at the 2005 SEC Championship.

“Whitney loves to compete, and this tournament brings out the best in her,” Briles-Hinton said. “She’s been working on her swing a lot lately, and it really showed this weekend. She swung the club well the entire tournament, and she really picked us up when we needed it as a team. This was a solid tournament for Whitney, and I’m really happy for her.”

Joining Myers in the top-10 was fellow junior Sandra Gal (Leichlingen, Germany), the SEC Player of the Year Candidate who played her way into a tie for seventh with a two-over 218 (70-73-75). The seventh-place tie was Gal’s best finish in three appearances at the SEC Championship. She tallied five birdies on the way to Sunday’s final-round 75 (+3), running her birdie total to 10 for the three-day tournament. The front nine was Gal’s domain during the third round, as she birdied three holes to play the first half of the round at even par.

Sophomore Mallory Blackwelder (Versailles, Ky.) also recorded the best finish of her career at the SEC Championship, just missing her first top-10 outing of the year after firing her second-consecutive round of 73 (+1) on Sunday. That mark brought Blackwelder to a total of 221 (75-73-73, +5) for the tournament, good for a share of 11th. She birdied three out of four holes around the turn, combining them with two additional birdies to counter four bogeys and a double-bogey on the day.

Redshirt sophomore Ornella Jouven (La Ciotat, France) charged to an even-par 72 on Sunday, marking her second round at par or better this season. She rolled in four birdies on the day to earn her best round of the tournament by five strokes, finishing with an 11-over 227 (77-78-72) and a tie for 25th. Junior Tiffany Chudy (Miramar, Fla.) shot an 11-over 83 on Sunday, bringing her tournament total to 246 (76-87-83, +30). She finished in a tie for 58th place.

“As nice as it is to see a second-place finish, we know we didn’t play as well as we possibly could have,” Briles-Hinton said. “Each of our players left shots out on the course today. That’s an encouraging sign, though, because it means that we’re just beginning to heat up a the most important time of the year.”

The Lady Gators will be idle until the NCAA Regionals, which will be held from May 10-12 at a location yet to be determined. Florida and the rest of the NCAA field will await their assignments to one of three locations: the East Regional at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La., the Central Regional at the University of Michigan Golf Course in Ann Arbor or the West Regional at Snow Canyon Country Club in St. George, Utah.